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New setup for astrophotography for beginners


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my 14 year old son has got into astrophotography about 2 years ago doing photos in plantary and solar system. He is very intrested in  deep space objects, iam looking to buy a new setup for him. the following is what i was looking at, is there any improvements or cheaper i can make to the following and is this good enoughh for deep space and nebula.

CAMERA: altair hypercam 183 pro tech colour astronomy imaging camera

TELESCOPE: skywatcher startravel 120 ota

MOUNT: skywatcher EQ5 pro goto mount

TRACKING CAMERA: t7c colour astronomy camera

FILTERS: not sure what filters for a colour camera

GUIDE SCOPE: unsure what's needed

is there anything else I need for DSO photography

The only gear we have is a cheap £100 telescope

Edited by nightghost7
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I would swap out the ST for an evostar ed glass scope which has a two stage focuser, or a evolux or a William Optics Redcat or Zenithstar 61 or 70. The better glass is essential for chromatic aberration free photos, the better focusers also help with fine tuning focusing. Larger aperture is better but not at the cost of the optics when imaging, it depends how picky you will be. Post processing of images will also be easier if the CA is better controlled. At some point you'll need a field flattener if you want to image a flat field across the whole frame with a refractor telescope.

Guidescope as a very general rule, I use at least a third of focal length compared to the imaging scope focal length. Really you should match the resolutions (optical and camera) between the two. As a guide for a 370mm imaging scope i use either a 200mm 50mm aperture or a 120mm 30mm aperture guidescope, the aperture difference allows for more stars to be seen by the guide camera. A mono guide cam will also pick up more stars but isn't essential, people typically use a zwo 120mm (mono) or 120mc (colour).

You will also need a cable which connects from the pc to the mount, I don't have an eq5 but I suspect it's an EQ MOD cable.

You'll also need an adaptor ring to connect the camera to the scope and spacer rings to set the back focus distance to the camera sensor which is typically in the 50-60mm range depending on the optical train.

You can image with that setup with the built in sidereal tracking of the eq5, so you wouldn't need the guidescope and guidecam, autoguiding will be better though.

Filters, you don't necessarily need one to start, it depends highly on the bortle zone you live in and what local lights are nearby.

 

Edited by Elp
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Another option that you may not have considered, instead of the scope a Samyang 135mm F2 lens works well with DSLR or an astro camera. It however will be very wide field so small targets will be an issue.

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2 hours ago, nightghost7 said:

my 14 year old son has got into astrophotography about 2 years ago doing photos in plantary and solar system. He is very intrested in  deep space objects, iam looking to buy a new setup for him.

It would be good to know details of the equipment you already have. Some of it maybe perfectly reusable for DSOs. I am guessing he still wants to continue capturing planetary images. If so the refractors may not be suitable. I started small with equipment I had bought for my daughter when she was around 14ish. You can see details in my signature.

My suggestion is to do the purchases in stages as - its easier to learn in steps AND it will soon be time for your son to go to Uni etc. and you will end up using the equipment like I am doing (and enjoying!) 🙂

Get the best mount - like an HEQ5 or HEQ6 !

PS: I know some of us dads are eager to research & supply all the materials to ease our children's journey, but it can sometimes dampen that thirst for knowledge in them. I find that when they discover something else they need to improve their journey and they receive it after they have looked at options, it gives them more joy.

Edited by AstroMuni
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Absolutely not the  Startravel 120.  Fast F ratio, budget refractors are about as bad as it gets in astrophotography. Also, the camera has a tiny chip, meaning you'll need a very short focal length to fit deep sky objects onto it. If you can't run to a camera with a bigger chip, I would keep your focal length right down. A prime camera lens, possibly an old one, provided adapters provided adapters are available to fit the camera.

If you don't match chip size with focal length you end up with a minute field of view and many deep sky objects are actually very large. Some of the best images being published at the moment (the best bar none) are coming from the Samyang 135 lens.

Olly

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6 hours ago, Elp said:

You can image with that setup with the built in sidereal tracking of the eq5, so you wouldn't need the guidescope and guidecam, autoguiding will be better though

Not wishing to derail the OP's thread, but I'm in a similar position myself looking to upgrade from my very basic current setup. Do I understand that you can achieve something initially in deep sky imaging relying just on the tracking of an EQ5 go-to? (which I gather is passive and just relies on dead-reckoning).

(Obviously autoguiding is better - as I understand it you have some feedback from the guide cam and which tries to correct for tracking errors. But it's more money to shell out in one go!)

 

6 hours ago, Elp said:

I would swap out the ST for an evostar ed glass scope which has a two stage focuser, or a evolux or a William Optics Redcat or Zenithstar 61 or 70. The better glass is essential for chromatic aberration free photos, the better focusers also help with fine tuning focusing.

Any reason why not a Newtonian such as the Explorer 130PDS/150PDS? That's what I'm currently looking at as a Newt seems to deliver more bang for buck, though of course the OP may have a particular preference for a refractor.

 

6 hours ago, Elp said:

Another option that you may not have considered, instead of the scope a Samyang 135mm F2 lens works well with DSLR or an astro camera.

Personally I'm not going to rush out and buy one of these but I have a Nikon 18-300mm zoom lens already. Is it worth having a bash with this? Actually I can answer that for myself - of course there's no harm in trying! Though I suppose you need some sort of tracking to avoid star trailing with such long exposures.

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33 minutes ago, imakebeer said:

I'm in a similar position myself looking to upgrade

If the mount has a motorised RA axis which is the bare minimum for long exposure then yes, as long as the setup is polar aligned you can adjust the sidereal tracking rate (the rate at which it turns to counteract the earth's rotation) and image with this. I've managed to image widefield with an Omegon LX which is purely mechanical and in the same field as a barn door home made solution.

The PDSs are fine scopes, I had a 130, you need to do a few things to them to get them up to a good spec, whereas a refractor will work out the box for a beginner. Hasn't been recommended by me because an APO refractor will be easier to use for an AP beginner, no collimation, minimal chance of tilt, no diffraction spike, smaller (less affected by wind), easier to balance etc.

I always recommend people try with what they have (I still use my azgti the most despite the general consensus being it's not recommended much for AP). So sure enough try with what you have at hand, M42 the Orion nebula is a good target to try as you can image it well without tracking and it appears in less than 10s exposure which won't show star trailing if you're shooting at a fairly short focal length.

I've tried a multitude of equipment on a budget as I'm never content with what I have, but I have to say, the Samyang 135mm is one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever used no question, it is that good.

 

Edited by Elp
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6 hours ago, Elp said:

Hasn't been recommended by me because an APO refractor will be easier to use for an AP beginner

Also eye wateringly expensive to a noob like me! 😱😂

But thanks for the pointers, it's all helpful as I learn 👍

6 hours ago, Elp said:

I always recommend people try with what they have

Yep, 100% . I've already posted my initial efforts with the gear I have. I've been out again this evening experimenting - not sure it's better, but it's all learning (will post the results in the coming hours/days nevertheless). And I figure all the learning will pay dividends as and when I can upgrade.

Orion nebula is still a bit low in the sky for me ATM. I saw it last winter but will have a go again soon to continue learning 👍

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I use my 130pds for imaging sometimes.  Mostly visual at the moment which is good because I've been able to learn to use it and get the hang of collimation, etc.   Its really nice for visual (just not on an eq mount!)

Most DSO are pretty big and you don't really need a big scope for it.  200-400mm focal length will image a huge amount of the night sky and the shorter focal length will make it much more forgiving for things like guiding.

I'll add that I only used the 130pds for imaging because I upgraded my camera and couldn't attach my telephoto lenses to the camera.  I had no issues, but I'd spent a couple months working kinks out of my system before attempting with a scope.

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Hi, your son will be making many large jumps all at once getting to terms with all the new equipment and it can be daunting as well as getting very expensive quite quickly. The good folks on SGL will be able to give advice on matters etc as he progresses. 👍

May I ask what the average sky is like where he will image from as if you have a very bright location the deep sky objects results could be poor for many targets with a OSC? Filters are avaialble to help reduce the effects of light pollution. One area I would stress brings ample reward for dedication is getting adept with a processing software that he finds he likes to use, there are many on the market some are free others at cost.

Good luck,
Steve

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On 04/11/2022 at 21:45, nightghost7 said:

Thanks all will re think the camera and telescope.  This is not as east to pick as I thought it would be.

At the end its what you are willing to spend now. The Newts will get you best bang for buck. Based on my experience (see link in my signature), a 130mm scope, good mount (preferably a go-to), a DSLR/planetary camera like ASI224mc, and a computer you can get great images. Most of the software is free!

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On 05/11/2022 at 00:03, imakebeer said:

Also eye wateringly expensive to a noob like me!

Just spend on a better mount. Rest will take care of itself. You have managed to get great planetary images, and a 70mm refractor can capture good images of DSOs too (will need more images as compared to using a 130mm). Good luck!

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A sturdy mount as said is paramount. HEQ-5 Pro with a reflector (130PDS) would eat up just half your budget. Add a DSLR or a dedicated camera (new or second hand) and guiding gear (guidescope + cam) and you´ll have it. Add a dual band filter too if you like to do some narrowband.

Just another opinion.

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On 04/11/2022 at 10:15, nightghost7 said:

my 14 year old son has got into astrophotography about 2 years ago doing photos in plantary and solar system. He is very intrested in  deep space objects, iam looking to buy a new setup for him. the following is what i was looking at, is there any improvements or cheaper i can make to the following and is this good enoughh for deep space and nebula.

CAMERA: altair hypercam 183 pro tech colour astronomy imaging camera

TELESCOPE: skywatcher startravel 120 ota

MOUNT: skywatcher EQ5 pro goto mount

TRACKING CAMERA: t7c colour astronomy camera

FILTERS: not sure what filters for a colour camera

GUIDE SCOPE: unsure what's needed

is there anything else I need for DSO photography

The only gear we have is a cheap £100 telescope

I will advise you as best i can, like Olli above my first point is to push you well away from the ST120 OTA it is compleatly unsuited to the task of DSO imaging. 

CAMERA: Altair Hypercam 183C PRO TEC COOLED Colour 20mp Astronomy Imaging Camera (altairastro.com): £799 (Cheapest new cooled camera available, if you can spend £100 more the 533 version of the hypercam is much better) 

TELESCOPE: Sky-Watcher Evolux 62ED OTA | First Light Optics £329  (Do not worry about the small aperture and size of the scope it is all about being able to fit the large DSO targets on your small sensor, this scope is much better corrected too). 

FEILD FLATTENER: Sky-Watcher .9x Reducer/Flattener for Evolux 62ED | First Light Optics  £229 (required to prevent optical aberrations in the corners of the field)

MOUNT: Sky-Watcher EQM-35 PRO Go-To Modular Astronomy Mount | First Light Optics £659  (It is a tough call between this and the EQ5 pro but for me this is just slightly better, people say HEQ5 pro but it is out of budget and not required at this focal length also you should be able to lift a EQM35 in and out of the house without stripping it all down).

TRACKING CAMERA: ZWO Mini Finder-Guider & ASI120MM-Mini Bundle | First Light Optics  £222 (all you need for guiding). 

FILTER: Optolong Dual-Band L-eXtreme Filter | First Light Optics £239 (great for nebulas with a OSC camera)

GUIDE SCOPE: It's packaged with the guide camera for you, see above link. 

CONNECTIVITY: Lynx Astro FTDI EQDIR USB Adapter for Sky-Watcher Mounts (see description for models) | First Light Optics £33 (2 m long model will allow PC control of the mount via eq mod). 

Total: £2510 (will be some delivery charges)

 

All in all, that would be way way better than what I started out with and I did well. But a word of warning DSO imaging is difficult and so dedication will be required from you both to master all the above equipment and get the best out of it. Think of it as something that you need to build up to as opposed to jumping right in. For a beginner just getting a good alignment is a difficult task at first, then guiding, then image capture. 

 

Adam

 

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Just want to add a reminder than you don't need to purchase everything brand new. I'm likely selling a ZWO ASI533 soon and I have seen people selling the Samyang135 lens with adapters and mounting for good prices. That's always a good way to get into things rather than buying brand new.

Phil

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I would re-iterate what @Phillyo is saying about second hand. Most astro kit advertised is well looked after and you will get much more for your money. For the mount in particular I would suggest something better than the EQM-35 such as the HEQ5. The mount is by far the most important part of the set up and if you get a poor one, you will struggle from day one. Also, if you buy second hand you will lose very little if you re-sell later.

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On 04/11/2022 at 10:32, Elp said:

I would swap out the ST for an evostar ed glass scope which has a two stage focuser, or a evolux or a William Optics Redcat or Zenithstar 61 or 70. The better glass is essential for chromatic aberration free photos, the better focusers also help with fine tuning focusing. Larger aperture is better but not at the cost of the optics when imaging, it depends how picky you will be. Post processing of images will also be easier if the CA is better controlled. At some point you'll need a field flattener if you want to image a flat field across the whole frame with a refractor telescope.

Guidescope as a very general rule, I use at least a third of focal length compared to the imaging scope focal length. Really you should match the resolutions (optical and camera) between the two. As a guide for a 370mm imaging scope i use either a 200mm 50mm aperture or a 120mm 30mm aperture guidescope, the aperture difference allows for more stars to be seen by the guide camera. A mono guide cam will also pick up more stars but isn't essential, people typically use a zwo 120mm (mono) or 120mc (colour).

You will also need a cable which connects from the pc to the mount, I don't have an eq5 but I suspect it's an EQ MOD cable.

You'll also need an adaptor ring to connect the camera to the scope and spacer rings to set the back focus distance to the camera sensor which is typically in the 50-60mm range depending on the optical train.

You can image with that setup with the built in sidereal tracking of the eq5, so you wouldn't need the guidescope and guidecam, autoguiding will be better though.

Filters, you don't necessarily need one to start, it depends highly on the bortle zone you live in and what local lights are nearby.

 

A 70mm refractor is a good match for a heq5 pro. I would avoid the William Optics zenithstar 70 doublet though (worst scope I’ve used). The Altair and William Optics Gran Turismo 71mm triplets are well-made and give excellent results.  Re: buying second-hand, you have to ask why people get rid. I have a heq5 2nd hand and it’s a Best Buy. People do trade up to bigger mounts or sometimes give up the hobby because the mount head is too heavy to lift. Cameras likewise - eg going to setpoint or a larger sensor. With scopes, best to either see the scope before buying or to know the seller.

Edited by woldsman
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