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Suitable newbie setup for astrophotography?


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Hi Guys,

I'm hoping that I may be able to get some experienced opinions on a first setup that would be suitable for astrophotography (both planetry and DSOs) as well as viewing. I've had a good look around the site (great site by the way), so I hope I'm not asking questions that have already been asked.

At the moment I've got two setups on my list - one of which I suspect is probably unsuitable, and both of which are beyond my original budget: would seem that astrophotography adds to the cost quite signifcantly. Anyway, the two scopes I'm considering are the Skywatcher skyliner 200P flextube auto and the Skywatcher Explorer 150PDS with an HEQ5 mount.

My suspicions are that the skyliner, being a dob is not going to provide smooth enough tracking as it would need to constantly step both the alt and azimuth motors (unless a wedge was used to take the alt motor out of play) and that this would also cause the image to rotate - not ideal, but is this considered a serious problem?

The Explorer currently seems the more suitable option, although is quite a way above my original budget (even resisting aperture fever) - with a bit of heart searching I'm sure I can manage to justify it though :) - as it would appear that the EQ5 mount probably wouldn't provide sufficient stability for astrophotography, so would need to be upgraded to the HEQ5. I was also wandering whether anyone has been able to compare the 150P and 150PDS in use - I understand the main difference is the position of the primary mirror which has been moved to aide focusing of DSLRs on the 150PDS. Does this have a significant negative effect for viewing? And is it even necessary for astrophotography? Or would the 150P be sufficient?

The other potential issue I have is that I currently have a Nikon D300 DSLR and although I suspect it's adequate for my astrophotography uses I've seen that Canons are the preferred astrophotography DSLRs on account of their handling of noise for prolonged exposures. Has anyone possibly tried a D300 and if so are there any objective opinions on its suitability? Not that I'm in a position to change it at the moment...

Thanks in advance,

Steve

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Hi Steve, welcome to SGL.

Sounds like you are well up for the imaging. And the second setup, Skywatcher Explorer 150PDS with an HEQ5 mount, you have in mind is the better option. The HEQ5 is very sturdy, especially with only the 150PDS on board.

Pretty sure from the camera reviews i've read, that by the time of the D300, Nikon had caught Canon in terms of image noise. Nothing in it. Where the Canon scores is it's superior support within the community, with far greater software support.

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Hi Steve.

Welcome to SGl. Why not start astrophotography with some basic but enjoyable?

Pop the DSLR with a wide-ish lens (25-50mm) on a tripod and take 10 to 20 sec exposures of anything that looks vaguely interesting. You get to see the outcome immediately and can modify your routine.

Then you will think about a pollution filter. Then you will want a motor drive (HEQ5?) to avoid the star trails. Then you will try a longer lens. Then you will put the camera on the end of the telesecope.

Go for a rigid mount. HEQ5 is a good choice. Photography really starts to show any mount flex or wobble. You can put a lot bigger scope on a mount for visual than for photography.

As for the particular scopes you have mentioned. I'm sure there are many on SGL who have personal experience of these scopes so can give better advice.

David.

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Thanks guys,

I'm glad to hear that there's not likely to be an issue with the Nikon - all the posts and other sites I've looked at only seem to mention Canon, and even 'The Backyard Astronomers Guide' which came highly recommended focuses mainly on Canon.

I take it the 150PDS is fine to use for viewing as well, or is it likely to need an extender tube to move the eyepiece away from the secondary?

David, is it possible to mount a camera directly onto a telescope mount? I assume you'd need some adaptor plate? I've got a few reasonable lunar photos with my long lens so far, but have to admit I've not tried much in the way of wide-angle shots.

And thanks for the book recommendation - I've seen it mentioned on a few other sites. Have to see about getting a copy.

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Hi Steve.

Camera on scope mount is easy.

You are no doubt used to the 1/4" screw to tripod. For a scope mount, like the HEQ5, you have a dovetail bar that is clamped to the mount. This allows you to slide the scope (or camera) back and forth for balance. Simply screw through the dovetail bar to the camera. You can buy cheap dovetail bars with holes already drilled from Scopes n Skies - easily found on the web. This allows you to use the motor drive to avoid star trails. I'm going to PM a picture to you taken with this arrangement.

David.

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Thanks guys,

I'm glad to hear that there's not likely to be an issue with the Nikon - all the posts and other sites I've looked at only seem to mention Canon, and even 'The Backyard Astronomers Guide' which came highly recommended focuses mainly on Canon.

I take it the 150PDS is fine to use for viewing as well, or is it likely to need an extender tube to move the eyepiece away from the secondary?

David, is it possible to mount a camera directly onto a telescope mount? I assume you'd need some adaptor plate? I've got a few reasonable lunar photos with my long lens so far, but have to admit I've not tried much in the way of wide-angle shots.

And thanks for the book recommendation - I've seen it mentioned on a few other sites. Have to see about getting a copy.

The guides and forums only mention the Canon because it has almost universal support amongst the software developers, the Nikon doesn't. And the early Nikon's had some in-camera technical issues but I'm pretty sure the cameras that followed the D70s were sorted out.

The 150PDS is a mighty fine visual scope as well. It does require an extension to bring the eyepieces to focus but this is supplied.

Sounds like David has you sorted with mounting the camera directly to the mount. The is the configuration that i do my imaging.

A very handy device for the Nikon would a timer remote than you can programme with exposure, number of images, interval etc. Just set it going and leave the camera to do its thing.

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Thanks Russ,

Talked myself out of a timer remote last year unfortunately, so might have to see about trading up my more basic remote at some point - any excuse to get a new\better gadget :-) although I think that will probably wait a little while.

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Thanks Russ,

Talked myself out of a timer remote last year unfortunately, so might have to see about trading up my more basic remote at some point - any excuse to get a new\better gadget :-) although I think that will probably wait a little while.

Ebay is full of Timer Remote clones for very low prices. The Canon version is normally £90, which i couldn't even contemplate. But the rip offs start from £11.99. The one i got works and looks just like the original a fellow club member has.

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Hi there - Welcome to SGL... :)

I've also seen that Dave's going to PM you his setup for attaching a DSLR to the mount, but there's also a couple of links I'd like to forward on that will do this job - One's a DIY ( here under "quick release" on the left hand side), and the other's available for purchase here.

The DIY version is also featured in the book Woody referenced... in fact you'll find the author on here under the name "Steppenwolf" :)

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