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All the gear and no idea!


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Hi all,

So I'm here to ask your advice and help - unsurprisingly! But because this topic must have been done ad nauseam for all you experienced astronomers I've tried to make it a bit more of journey which hopefully will spark responses and create chit chat as well as help me.

Well as predicted, I've really struggled. Mark Thompson mentions to Wossy a SkyQuest 8 inch Dobsonian for £100 and within 5 mins of trying to locate one for that price I realise it's more like 200-300 quid! I can't afford that. Simple. Not on something I've only just traversed the foot bath of let alone dipped my toe into.

My wife is a semi-pro photographer (pro-mother) and using an old DSLR I can see myself really getting into astrophotography.

So now I need an EQ mount with or without a motor and I'm conceding that £150-£200 is my price range. But we've all been here dozens of times haven't we? 200 quid on golf clubs just to grow out them technically!

Then I read a post on here about the 130p. An experienced member mentions about how he has one even though it's aimed at beginners. Another posts about how over a certain magnification is pointless anyway for one reason (I don't understand) or another.

I search for "Skywatcher Explorer 130" and WOW, 142 quid for one! Fab! Let's just check a few more sites.... Hold on, there's no 'p'. What difference does the 'P' make. Long story short I was braced to by a 130EM from ScopesNSkies with a motor for £159 when I realised that the P is everything! A newbie like me might think that a focal length of 900mm would be better than 630mm and for less money!

It annoys me a bit that firms feel the need to put these inferior models out with very little indication to the novice that the item is fundamentally different from the one they thought they were getting.

So I'm decided I think. The SkyWatcher Explorer 130P without all the motorised gumpf that I'm hoping I can circumnavigate once I know what I'm doing on the thing! But what do I know? Nowt. Comments please. Ta. :)

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the p has better optics and if you get a little more cash later you can always add this to it Skywatcher - Skywatcher RA Motor Drive for EQ2 I think you are making a wise choice. there must be some reason why its £10 more than the one with the motor. the reason is the much better optics they will be sharper and clearer. the 130m is a fine starter scope but the 130p is better. I am sure you will be pleased when you have it

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Hi danielson23uk,

from what I understand the Skywatcher 130p is a pretty good start in anyones opinion. I would have got one myself but my misses bought me the celestron 130eq ( absolutley no complaints mind ). Also I kind of like having a non-motorised eq mount, I feel like I'm learning more this way rather than relying on technology too much, more hands on if you like. The way I look at it, its a good start and if all goes well you / I may well upgrade our kit later down the line just like many of our other experienced postee's have done.

By the way I got a full set of Pings, gathering dust now. Learnt a lesson there ! :)

Cheers Martin.

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Go with Skywatcher p. The view is good across the whole field. Beats my Meade into 2nd place.

Thanks Cotterless. I notice you have the Heritage 130p too. Is that any cop? I was looking at it but was disuaded after I kept bumping into adverts of it on ebay.

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You mentioned wanting to do astrophotography in the first part of your post. Well you are going to need a motorised mount in order to keep the camera (be it on its own or attached to the scope) centered on the subject for long enough in order to collect enough light (data) from which to process your image. Deep Sky Objects (DSO's) such as galaxies and nebula do not produce enough light for you to capture quickly unlike say planets or the moon. It follows that buying a mount with the motors attached from the start is cheaper than if you buy them separately to add later. Someone might argue that you need only buy one motor that controls the RA axis but when you look at the price of this one motor compared to buying motors for both the RA and Dec axis together, it makes sense to do the latter.

Can I recommend that you read "Making Every Photon Count" by Steve Richards (FLO £19.95) that details everything you need to know about astro imaging and what you will kit you must have in order to obtain the standard of images you want. I'm afraid with imaging you get what you pay for and you might find that reading this book first before doing anything else might indeed save you money.

Clear skies

James

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If my memory serves me right, I think I seen several threads about not being able to get a DSLR to focus on the 130.

Astrophotography is a very technical and demanding mix of 3 different hobbies (astronomy, photography and image processing). It's also very expensive. Be sure to get a book and find out what you're getting into, before you part with your cash.

Edited by pvaz
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Thanks to both James and Paulo. I take on board the point about a motor but at present I deliberately bought a scope without so that I could 'learn the craft' first. In my line of work you have to learn how to do something with your hands before you can let a bit of kit do it.

The comment about not being able to get a DSLR to focus on the 130P concerns me though. But that's all for the future. I need to become competent with the scope before worrying about photos.

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Nothing wrong with learning how to do things manually as that is exactly what I did and to be honest, you do learn more! It is interesting how seductive imaging has become for so many starting out. I'm not complaining, as the quality of images seen on here keep me well motivated when the weather is being is playing up. The BBC didn't do anyone any favours by included deep sky images produced by a lot of time and a lot of kit at the end of a tutorial that that concerned itself with taking widefield shots using a DSLR on a tripod!

I hope you're able to come to a final decision on what kit to get and I hope the weather stays clear when those big boxes arrive!

James

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Nothing wrong with learning how to do things manually as that is exactly what I did and to be honest, you do learn more! It is interesting how seductive imaging has become for so many starting out. I'm not complaining, as the quality of images seen on here keep me well motivated when the weather is being is playing up. The BBC didn't do anyone any favours by included deep sky images produced by a lot of time and a lot of kit at the end of a tutorial that that concerned itself with taking widefield shots using a DSLR on a tripod!

I hope you're able to come to a final decision on what kit to get and I hope the weather stays clear when those big boxes arrive!

James

I went with the 130P without a motor. I'm on late shifts at the moment so can't play with new kit even if it does arrive. Still it's persisting down here anyway. Probably a good job cos I'd end up anouncing that I've discovered a dozen new galaxies before someone comes to wipe the rain off the reflector! :icon_eek:

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Good luck with the scope and I hope you get clear skies soon!

Visual viewing is the best way to start, I feel - just started playing with photos now and have to kow-tow to the genius's on here that produce such awesome pictures!

Maybe that £800 mount will help - if I can just explain that it is more important that the new car my wife wants...

Steve

Edited by Saata
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I think he actually said £200 on the show BTW not £100. might be wrong though.

you have made a good start with your scope and I hope it gives you many good night's viewing.

One thing's for sure, you can spend literally nothing (using your eyes) or many thousands of £s (or anything in between) on this hobby and still lust for more. So don't fret too much about 'stuff'. Buy what you can easily afford and enjoy what you do have. Good luck.

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Hi there.

I was in the same predicament as yourself a few months ago, I searched the web high and low and must have sifted through what seemed like a gazillion websites looking at scopes until it made my eyes bleed! I eventually decided to go for a Sky-Watcher Startravel 102 (4") refractor on a non-motorised EQ1 mount; for less than £180 I must say I was very impressed with the optics, and being an f/5 (a fast scope - good for dso's), I can use it for astrophotography too. :icon_eek:

I really would like to get into astrophotography, I have recently purchased a Canon 1000d dSLR camera on many recommendations from lots of users of this forum and have ordered an adapter today so that I can attach the camera to my scope and start taking pictures.

The only problem with I can envizage with a reflector telescope (in my view at least) is that they are big and cumbersome and not that easy to lug around and they may also need to be collimated if the mirrors become misaligned whereas a nice little refractor is much more solid and has no mirrors.

I'm sure you will enjoy whatever you decide to buy though, but if you DO want to get into astrophotoraphy, I agree with 'pvaz' in that it can be a VERY expensive hobby! lol

Good luck and clear skies. ;-)

Richard.

Edited by milkyjoe
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I got the 130p and had a great time with it - moon, Jupiter, Mars all looked brilliant. Then aperture fever struck and I upgraded. I've still got the 130p and have no intentions of letting it go. I'll probably take it camping in France this year instead of the dob.

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It follows that buying a mount with the motors attached from the start is cheaper than if you buy them separately to add later. Someone might argue that you need only buy one motor that controls the RA axis but when you look at the price of this one motor compared to buying motors for both the RA and Dec axis together, it makes sense to do the latter.

James

I was also looking at getting the 130P on Eq2 - on the point of buying the RA/dec motors together, do correct me if I am wrong but this doesn't appear to be an option for this mount: the 130PM is no longer listed by FLO and I read elsewhere it has been discontinued. In any case, it was integrated with RA only. Is it the case that 2 motor EQ mount would involve something more expensive like the EQ3-Pro?

Now there is a 130p with Supatrak for about £30 more than 130P/EQ2. However its on an Alt-azimuth mount. How would this compare with a 130P with RA motor? Is 2 motor alt-az tracking any better/worse than RA tracking? Is it an easier setup proposition? (eg see http://stargazerslounge.com/beginners-help-advice/88409-motor-drive-tracking-problems-eq2-mount.html)

I found comments made when the 130P +Supatrak came out to be reasonably positive (though mount legs not too good): http://stargazerslounge.com/equipment-help/55211-anyone-used-supatrak-mount-yet.html (also has link to Ade Ashford's comments as well).

So would this be the best option for a 130P with tracking to support webcam imaging?

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alt az is fine for wecam imaging but no good for dso's for that it needs an eq mount but just for webcam it will be fine. not great unfortunately as that size scope is apparently a little wobbly on that mount but webcam is doable on that mount

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So would a 130P/EQ2 and added RA motor be a better proposition (at least it can be tracked manually for viewing if batteries die, unlike the Supatrak - assuming even with an RA motor added, manual operation is still possible)? It would be about £30 more expensive of course.

I realise serious DSO imaging requires ++money spent (like HEQ5 and autoguiding), but I was just more interested in the best bang for the tracking-for-webcam-imaging buck in terms of SupaTrak vs EQ2+RA. The wobbly Supatrak tripod does worry me though.

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I think a secondhand EQ3 would perhaps be a better option if you want to get into imaging. I've only seen the 127 Mak on the Supatrak and it was a little shakey. Not really what you want when trying to image, becomes very frustrating.

Not sure what your budget is but have you thought about a secondhand setup. Perhaps put together an EQ3 with a Skymax 127 on top. It will be better suited to planetary imaging.

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Hi danielson,

I have just been down a very similar route (for the full story, see http://stargazerslounge.com/beginners-help-advice/93825-newbies-novices-tyros-please-read-2.html#post1643423).

By all accounts, the 130P is an excellent scope but beware of the mount if you are serious about going into astrophotography. Long exposures require VERY stable mounts and you will probably want to add a guide scope at some point. The EQ2 is probably about right for the 130P for visual observation but has nothing "spare". This should be fine for short exposure work but worth bearing in mind if you want to add stuff to the setup in future.

I have settled on a TAL 2M for exactly this reason. It isn't ideal as it only has a RA motor but, accurately aligned, it should track OK. I am thinking of a mod to motorise the Dec axis but this is not simple :icon_eek:. On the plus side, the OTA, mount and pillar are built like proverbial out-houses and, as one reviewer said, will probably be one of the last things surviving when the sun incinerates the planet in a however many years...

If you are stuck for funds, seriously consider second-hand. There are very good deals to be done on U.K. Astronomy Buy & Sell and ebay, but remember to ask the guys and gals on here for advice so you don't end up wasting your pennies on junk. For reference, I picked up the TAL for £175.

One last thing, remember that although an alt/az will track stars and planets with a goto system, it won't rotate so you still need an eq mount for photography.

Good luck!

J.

Edited by jamespels
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  • 2 weeks later...
I deliberately bought a scope without so that I could 'learn the craft' first. In my line of work you have to learn how to do something with your hands before you can let a bit of kit do it.

That is so true....I know a few people who bought GPS GOTO scopes and all got either irritated, annoyed, frustrated, despondant (or all!) because they didn't understand.

I'm no expert on the heavens, but I like to leave my GOTO off occasionally to force me to find things manually (whether from an atlas, an article in a mag. etc.).

Mike

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