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markwaddy

1st Scope for Beginning Astrophotography?

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Hello, I'm looking for some advice on which is the best scope to buy with a view to using a DSLR (Nikon D3), rather than just viewing.

I'm a complete novice (no astronomy experience whatsoever) so wouldn't look to spend more than £200 in the first instance. Would a Skywatcher Explorer 130P Supatrak Auto offer reasonable results initially? It would be great if there's anyone who has any photos taken with a similar set up so I could see what to expect... any advice gratefully received! thanks.

Edited by markwaddy

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Astrophotography is the most demanding and frustrating part of astronomy. It requires a lot of time and investment to achieve good results.

If you go for the "standard" cheapest beginner gear for decent results, you'll need an Sky watcher HEQ5 or EQ6 mount and a ED80 scope. Brand new this will be in the 800-1200£ range.

On the second hand market you may be looking at 400-600£. You should take a look at this primer and maybe buy the book "making every photon count" to understand all the ins and outs. You need to understand the gear, how to locate objects, how to take multiple photos of an object and how to use software to process all those pictures into one final image of the object.

It is possible to start astro imaging with a more modest setup but you wouldn't be able to do exposures over 1/2 min and that would add a lot of work to produce a good image.

EDIT: I was in the same position as you a few months ago. I decided to go into astronomy for observation only. I plan to get into imaging next year.

Edited by pvaz

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Hmmmm....thought there may be an easier way into things than that - thanks for the info and the link to the primer. So, just to clarify, if I strap a DSLR camera to a £200 scope I'm wasting my time?

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hi

you would not be wasting your time.

if that is the amount of money you can use on it now, do the best you can with it.

you will be able to image, but not long exposures.

you can compensate some by making many more shorter exposures, and done right, it will be ok.

alfi

Edited by alfi

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Kind of. the problem is not the scope. To do long exposures (5 to 15 min) you need a very sturdy mount to attach the scope to. The mount needs to be of the type Equatorial (EQ for short).

This kind of mount alligns with the Earth's axys and haves motors to rotate around its axys at the exact same speed, but opposite direction, of the Earth's rotation, thus keeping the objects aligned.

If the mount haves any delay on the tracking the stars will leave trails. To compensate you can do short exposures like 1 min. To have a decent DSO photo you need at least 60min exposure so that means 60 x 1min photos to process and turn into a single image.

The 130p haves a version on the EQ3-2 mount at less then 250£. I think you'll have to add motors to it (not sure). This setup should allow you to experiment a bit, but, in my long research on the subject, I would not expect great results from it.

Anyway you should wait for some of the excellent imagers here to add their thoughts to it.

Edited by pvaz

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Paulo Is right but you can get images without such a outlay. The quality won't be to good but you can take a photo of the moon and some planets. This is not a great photo but I took this image of the moon with my phone 3mp camera through the 25mm EP

Stargazers Lounge - Jupiter Martin's Album: mobile moon - Picture

Not to bad for a mobile phone. But if you want great pics of DSO's then it will cost

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Thanks for all your responses, its much appreciated. I do see that I really need a larger scope with a motorised EQ mount in the long run, but I'm really looking for an introduction to see if its something that I'd like to spend £1000 on. I was under the impression that the Skywatcher Explorer 130P Supatrak Auto was able to track objects and should therefore enable me to take longer exposures - or is it not able to track for long enough to do this?

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It's not the size of the scope, it's the mount that's key here. You are able to image at prime focus with thinks like the Supatrak Auto and the Nexstar SLT, I did. But it will get very very frustrating in short order. The mount, being AltAz means that you are limited in exposure length to 2 minutes max, when the target is low down in the east or west. As the target gets higher or further North or South, your sub times come down. This is to limit field rotation. The small mounts of that nature don't necessarily have particularly accurate tracking, so you need to allow for that also. I'm not sure the 130p is able to achieve focus with an SLR, as, if I remember correctly, there's not enough in focus on the drawtube. Doesn't mean it can't be done, but involves modding the scope.

Startravel - Skywatcher Startravel 102 SynScan AZ GOTO that's a little more expensive, and the scope will suffer from CA (violet halos, filters will deal with that), but with the addition of an extension tube, you will be able to achieve focus with an SLR. You will be limited in sub length, but it'll get you experience. You'll also be able to take the refractor from the mount, and mount it on a larger mount, like the HEQ5, and use it as a guide scope as some later point.

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I've not used a Supatrak but think that whilst it does track it would not be solid enough to track accurately for any length of time with a D3 attached. It would also be more susceptible to vibration. As Martin says you will get something out of it but it will never perform like an HEQ5 or HEQ6. If your interest is really the photography side then don't expect too much from a small outlay. If your main interest is the astronomy then the 130p is a great scope to start out with and spend some time observing before moving onto photography.

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I'm a beginner myself, and I haven't used this scope, but there are three things to keep in mind with regard to using this instrument for photography:

1. The mount will not be built to carry the weight of your D3, which is a heavy camera, this will make it reasonably unstable and may tax the motors.

2. Accuracy of the mount is absolutely key, even expensive mounts are often inadequate left to their own devices for astrophotography purposes. While this mount may be fine for viewing, I would imagine that often targets will drift somewhat in the eyepiece.

3. alt-az mounts, as contrasting eq mounts will suffer from field rotation (the top of the image gradually becomes the bottom etc). I'm sure if you think about this you will understand why. This means, even if the tracking was perfect your picture would be progressively trailed in a circle around its centre.

A further thing that I'm not sure on is the distance at which focus is achieved outside the tube, you might find that the scope would not reach focus on your camera's sensor, I don't know.

Which lenses do you have for your D3? If you've got some nice ones you might prefer just to get an EQ mount and put the camera on it directly, or to build a barn-door mount, depending on focal length.

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When Paulo says you need 60 minutes for a decent photo, he means decent as in printable in a magazine. If you have a look through the imaging section there are some cracking photos with much shorter exposures. In fact I saw one the other day that was done on an EQ2 mount with a 130mm scope and it was very impressive. I've even seen people make really nice astro images on home made barn door mounts with just a 200mm lens. No scope and a mount costing a few pounds. Admittedly most of them quickly upgrade to all that expensive gear :icon_eek:

You will find it much easier with a hugely expensive mount, expensive telescope, guiding scope, guiding software, etc. But don't let people tell you you cannot get anything worthwhile on a much smaller budget. It will be more difficult, take more time and frustration, but as long as you manage your expectations.

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hi

i totally agree with iamjulian, dont let people discourage you, imaging can be expensive, but if you are on a budget, you still will be able to image, as long as you understand the limitations, and dont expect the same results as those imaging with megabuck equipment.

get the equipment you can afford, and enjoy it, and later on, if you find this is for you, then you can upgrade.

alfi

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hi

i totally agree with iamjulian, dont let people discourage you, imaging can be expensive, but if you are on a budget, you still will be able to image, as long as you understand the limitations, and dont expect the same results as those imaging with megabuck equipment.

get the equipment you can afford, and enjoy it, and later on, if you find this is for you, then you can upgrade.

alfi

Absolutely. If I discourage you in anyway that wasn't my intension. I just assumed that someone that owns a D3 (witch is an expensive, around 4000£, full frame monster with excellent quality and pretty much on top my wish list) wouldn't be satisfied with anything short then great photos.

As I said in a previous post, some people do great images with more modest equipment. It's only a matter of dedication and perseverance. A cheaper equipment may be a great start so you can understand whether astrophotography is your thing or not.

EDIT: I would still recommend reading a good beginner book on the subject such as "making every photon count", before buying the gear. It may save you a lot of headaches and expense caused by choosing inadequate equipment.

Edited by pvaz

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I too agree totally with iamjulian. I myself had very little money earlier this year when I started. I decided to buy last year's model refractor, a Skywatcher ed 80mm on a CG-5 mount. It cost me 430 euro. As I had a budget of 500 euro there was money left for some small extra's and that was it. I already had a Canon 40D with a few good lenses and I started to experiment. A few weeks ago I bought a little motor (for 89 euro) so I can track the stars now and it works beautifully.

Or you could buy an achromate, which is considerably less expensive than an apo/ed. Yes, there is the colour thingy, but that can be remedied, at least to a certain extent. And it would get you started and you could see if this is worth investing in.

However, if you only have £ 200 to spend right now, I would recommend following the advice given by jbh, and that is to attach your camera directly to a motorised EQ mount. FLO sells the EQ3-2 for £ 159 and a single axis motor drive for £ 75. That's a bit over the 200 pounds mark, but not by much. You already have an excellent DSLR. And you'd be surprised at the results you can get with that set up!

And for exploring the night sky a pair of simple 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars are just great!

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Asuming a strict budget of £200, the 130p will be a good scope to start with at F/5, it's quite fast with a short focal length, hence wide FOV so tracking is more forgiving. The important thing is that the focuser can be wound in enough to achieve focus. But with the ALT/AZ you will be limited to about 30s-1min subs, which can still be usable, but a bit limited

Do you have any lenses for your Nikon already? If you have a wide angle and perhaps a zoom, you could do plenty with them and spend the £200 on a half decent equatorial mount with motorised RA axis (probably second hand). You could start with the Milky way wide angle and use a zoom for larger nebula, of which there are plenty. With these lenses, tracking will be very forgiving, so you can do simple polar alignment (this is very easy for short focal lengths, don't be put off by it) and still get 3-4mins of subs. That mount would then be suitable for a small refractor if you move on to a scope.

Oh yes and DEFINATELY buy a book!

Hope this helps

Edited by sgazer

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