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Newly retired and on a budget…


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Hello from Hoosierland🙋‍♀️

We will be visiting Big Bend Natl (& dark sky) Park in October (new moon phase).  I want to get some quality photos of the Milky Way but don’t have a lot of money to spend on camera.  

Suggestions/advice on how to accomplish this on a $500 budget.

(is it possible to attach my iPhone to a telescope?  Would that be cheaper but same quality?).   Appreciate any advice👍🏻

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If you want easy, near enough within budget and far more wow factor than doing it on a budget get a ZWO Seestar, nothing else will come close. It's limited on planets due to the short focal length but for everything else well it's all in reach. For wide milky way you can mosaic, or get a Dwarflabs Dwarf (soon to be version 3) as that has two in built lenses for more options.

Imaging with a phone is possible if you can set exposures to long (seconds length) and they must be absolutely fixed with no vibration (this includes setting the shutter, so you'd have to set a delay timer to take each image).

Imaging through a telescope is not necessary easy, for very good quality is definitely isn't cheap. Also note for good astrophotos you need decent post processing software skills, you won't get much of a result straight out of camera.

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For a budget of $500, I'd suggest:

a pre-owned full frame  entry level DSLR camera (eg Canon 6d)  with a low shutter count (should be easily obtainable from a used camera dealer).

a Rokinon/Samyang 14mm lens (these also come up pre-owned quite often)

a tripod (doesn't have to be premium).

You'll also need as accessories an intervalometer (acts as a remote shutter release), a red dot pointer, a dew band heater and a usb power pack to run the heater.

If you want to cut a corner, a cropped sensor DSLR would also work but full frame is better a) because wider field of view & b) because you can have a slightly longer exposure time without star trails.

You can stack and process using free software (eg Sequator/Siril and Gimp) but if you can afford inexpensive software (Affinity Photo and BackyardEos for capture using a laptop) life will be a bit easier.

Sounds like you already have a dark sky that is likely to be clear - these are priceless here in the UK. 

PS have a great retirement - wish I could do the same!


Edited by woldsman
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Welcome to a hobby that has a habit of causing GAS - or Gear Acquisition Syndrome - amongst its followers.
I can concur with Woldsman's comments about a pre-owned DSLR camera and the Samyang / Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 manual focus lens as being a great and quite cheap starting point - it's how I returned to astronomy as it gives you a portable set-up that has other uses too. I went with a Nikon D7200 cropped sensor camera on a decent tripod and I know that the Nikon D5300 onwards and D7100 onwards all have built in intervalometers. I bought a separate intervalometer from Rollei as it can be programmed to run up to 399 exposures with the camera in Bulb mode so you set your ISO on the camera (ISO 800 or 1000 on the D7200 with that 14mm lens works pretty well) and the exposure duration to a maximum of 13 seconds to avoid star trails. Alternatively, if you actually want star trails, turn down the ISO and lengthen the exposure.
There is a brilliant e-book by Royce Bair titled Milky Way Nightscapes that can take you from zero to intermediate MW shooter in no time!



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4 hours ago, BoBindy said:

iPhone 14

Get a small tripod, phone holder and a remote control, that should all be pretty cheap, and then you can use the camera's long exposure modes to take sky photos.

Edited by Earl
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