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Frustrated and it's all your fault - help I need an imaging set-up!


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Right, that's it.. I've wasted enough time trying to do it calmly, learn to walk first they say.. well it's all your fault. Every day you post the most amazing images... yes you.. you out there you know who you are ... just taunting me ... arghhhh.. the horror.. the horror.... ;):):)

Ahem, ok.. got that off my chest... right I need your help to advise me with getting started on putting together a decent imaging setup. So I've read the book.. trawled the web, seen the film, bought the t-shirt.. and now I'm here. My vision is an Imaging set-up that ultimately I can control from the computer. I realise to feed this craving I'm gonna have to finance this in stages and I also want something that is proven and works together so, concentrating primarily on getting started at stage 1, I'm proposing:

Stage 1:

- Get mount and auto guiding up and running with my D80 & lenses for Imaging.

Mount - EQ6 or CGEM - does it need to be goto for remote control via computer though?

Guide Scope - ST80 seems to be the de-facto

Guide Cam - I'd prefer something supported on Mac and Windows so the SE Lodestar seems to come up at least as far as PHD is concerned.

DSLR camera mount/quick release head - Should I piggyback the cam or use a dual side by side type mount?

Software - I prefer using Macs, so Equinox and PHD maybe or would I get far better control going down the EQMod route and running it off a Windows VM on the Mac. I also need to consider motorised focus control I guess.

Stage 2 - in 2-3 months:

scope ~ 80mm

Maybe get a Cannon body if my Nikon doesn't work out

Stage 3 - in 6+ months:

Larger scope ~ mn190 ?

CCD Cam maybe

Obsy may be built by then :)

I'm really interested in advise/comments on stage 1 as that's the foundation I need to get right now. I've included my ideas for the future so you know where I'm "dreaming" of heading.. ;)

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I don't know about the rest of the topic but why an Windows VM? Macs ( well the newer ones) can dual boot into whatever os you choose. Running two os's on an laptop/pc does drain a lot of resources including the battery, so not good if you are outside taking shots of a nebula or such.

Dazz

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I don't know about the rest of the topic but why an Windows VM? Macs ( well the newer ones) can dual boot into whatever os you choose. Running two os's on an laptop/pc does drain a lot of resources including the battery, so not good if you are outside taking shots of a nebula or such.

Dazz

I'm with Dazz on this. I dual boot my Macbook Pro with windows XP and except for trackpad issues (I use a bluetooth mouse to get around it) I have no problems. Admittedly I am only trying out APT at the moment to control my DSLR. But I also run DSS and have tried Registrax, EOS movie record with no problems.

I don't think XP manages the power as well as Mac OSX so have to plug into mains after a couple of hours but I don't find it an issue.

I don't know about PHD and EQmod but I am sure someone else must have tried it.

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Not a clue on the Mac side of the question.

However, the overall approach is perfect. I am happy with handset control myself because the IT side is always the one to go belly up at the last minute but I am an IT numpty so ignore me. (My Tak mount is computer controlled, my EQ sixes by handset.)

I would just attach your camera to the top of the ED80 which comes ready supplied with one of those infernally unobtainable camera thread bolts on one of ts guide rings. This is how I attach my CCD camera lens setup with up to 200mm lens and that is heavier than a DSLR by a long way.

When the 80mm comes along you can go side by side or piggyback. I piggyback a hefty Takahashi FSQ85ED, ED80 and camera lens setup all together on either Tak or EQ mount. No issues.

The bigger scope will see most of its action in the springtime when the Milky Way obligingly lies down to allow us access to remote and small outlying galaxies. That will probably be next year then. You will certainly not be short of targets for the 80 by the time you are up and running.

Personally, before the big scope I would make the commitment to monochrome CCD, myself. The ability to shoot dedicated narrowband when the moon is around means your setup will not be idle when the sky is clear but, agonizingly, moonlit. This doesn't affect me the same way because I am not in the UK and do need to go to bed occasionally! Then you can obtain the LRGB at another time and create something really special. A camera like the Atik 383 has a decent format and fits the bill at a reasonable prce.

Very few people go about this in what I would think of as the best way. You are, I thnk, bang on the money in your approach.

Olly

Edited by ollypenrice
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I don't think XP manages the power as well as Mac OSX so have to plug into mains after a couple of hours but I don't find it an issue.

Why Windows XP? Is there a reason for that? Windows 7 is much better, especially power management. Windows XP is pretty dire to be honest, especially the 64bit version, whereas Win 7 64bit is superb.

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Why Windows XP? Is there a reason for that? Windows 7 is much better, especially power management. Windows XP is pretty dire to be honest, especially the 64bit version, whereas Win 7 64bit is superb.

Tbh XP wasn't made with 64bit applications in mind, and the 64bit version of XP was a rush job to be used on the earlier AMD Clawhammers (always did love that name). It didn't stand a chance really. But then again, all of the astronomy related programs I have seen have all been 32bit, so an 64 bit OS wouldnt make any difference.

Dazz

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Why Windows XP? Is there a reason for that? Windows 7 is much better, especially power management. Windows XP is pretty dire to be honest, especially the 64bit version, whereas Win 7 64bit is superb.

I agree Win 7 64 bit is far superior to XP in a lot of ways, don't know about the power management side as I have it installed on a desktop but as Dazz said most astro programs seem to be 32 bit.

I installed XP on my Mac so I could have a play with some astro programs when the need arises and not have any compatibility issues with older legacy programs, also when I eventually get my webcam I will have a platform to flash the firmware as well.

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Thanks for the advise so far… much appreciated

As far as running Windows on the Mac, yup I'm happy enough with running either bootcamp or VM's. I usually run a VM as I've been using Mac apps along side Windows apps at the same time. Power management isn't much different, either way it's not long enough on the laptop!

I have bootcamp and VM's configured so I can choose. Although I'm much happier in a Mac (or unix) environment if I have to run Win apps because I cant do what I want to under MacOS then I'll have to deal with it. No probs. I just want to try and make my decisions as "dual" compatible as possible for the future. If I'm running this from my back garden as I'm designing for the moment then power isn't the issue anyway. I can worry about that later once I've got to grips with things at home before I venture away to darker sites where time will be more valuable.

Mount wise, so it does seem I could go for the EQ6 Syntrek and have "goto" capability as such via computer. Although saving £100 over the NEQ6 may be false economy if I wanted goto (£290) and the counterweight extension and saddles later on… (unless I found a second hand one of course)

Am I likely to want these?

would it affect resale value?

Is that the only difference between them?

The other mount I'm considering is the CGEM.. mainly because of the "tracking beyond the meridian" claim

would this mount be worth the extra £200 for that?

What other advantages does it have?

in fact does EQMod work with it anyway?

Has anyone any advice on choice of guide camera. I homed in on the Starlight Xpress lodestar because it seems it works on MacOS and Windows.. well according to PHD anyway.

Very few people go about this in what I would think of as the best way. You are, I thnk, bang on the money in your approach.

Olly

Olly

I'm so pleased to hear that.. It means my research must be on track and most of the credit has to go to you guys here at SGL.. Thankyou

I see your point about bringing the CCD forward in the plan, although I had thought I would be following Steve (Every Photon Counts) advice and go down the colour one shot route for here in the UK (well Scotland.. access to possibly darker sites :) ) But now you mention it only last night I was cursing exactly the fact the moon was too bright yet it was clear… in fact that was my final frustration that led to this post :glasses1:

I haven't even considered the learning curve for using monochrome.. so more reading up on that for me then..

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I agree, your approach seems spot on but I'd go for the CCD camera before the big telescope. I still stand by my approach of using a good OSC CCD camera to more than set the ball rolling especially in the UK but absolutely acknowledge the part that narrowband imaging has to play - I have a mono CCD too and very much enjoy experimenting with that with narrowband filters only but my OSC still gets plenty of use, especially under UK skies. If you especially like colour at least you do get a complete image in one session!

As I am sure will have have gathered already, astro-imaging puts a constant load on your wallet so taking a careful route like yours will give you the maximum value for your money as you progress through the various stages.

Can't help on the Mac v PC discussion but, stick to what YOU know and avoid making things more complicated than they need to be as there are plenty of other imaging related issues waiting to frustrate you ......

Edited by steppenwolf
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I installed XP on my Mac so I could have a play with some astro programs when the need arises and not have any compatibility issues with older legacy programs.

It's bad when you think that XP is now a "legacy" OS huh? Still you are less likely to have compatibility issues with XP than you will with say Vista or Snow Leopard, due to how new they are.

On a semi related note, I've yet to get outside and actually use my SPC900NC. I blame Vista....

Dazz

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Oh.. it's started already, now I have to put a OSC AND Monochrome CCD on my shopping list :glasses1: - ;)

Ok, so slightly revised timetable /shopping list then:

Stage 1: Now

- Get mount and auto guiding up and running with my D80 & lenses for Imaging.

Mount - EQ6 or CGEM - still need to know if the CGEM is worth the xtra

Guide Scope - ST80 seems to be the de-facto

Guide Cam -

I could use my SPC900 but didn't have a very good experience trying it using my ETX as a guidescope.. ok I didn't expect much but PHD didn't stay locked for more than a minute or so and sensitivity didn't seem too good.. So, still need to find one that has Mac & Win drivers if I can... suggestions?

DSLR camera mount/quick release head - mounted on top of ST80

Software - Mac or Win. I'm comfortable configuring either.. It's the Apps & drivers that will decide this for me then. This is for control and capture. For post processing I currently "dabble" with DSS (on a Win7 VM) and CS3.

Stage 2 - in 2-6 months:

- I'll open this up a bit now as my budget for this section may need revising if I push back on timelines and getting a larger scope in Stage 3

scope ~ 80mm

This is my list of potential candidates, gleamed mostly from what I've read from discussions in SGL. The budget varies a bit here so is the 80mm the workhorse size I'm led to believe and therefore worth investing in and delaying a larger scope purchase for perhaps another 10-12 months or more?

Skywatcher Equinox 80 APO PRO OTA

Skywatcher Evostar 80ED DS-Pro Outfit

Meade 5000 80mm ED APO Triplet Refractor

William Optics Megrez 72 FD DDG APO

Orion ED80T CF Apochromatic Refractor

APM 80mm F/6 Triplet APO

Now, depending on which scope I went for here, (and forgetting the larger scope until next spring as Olly suggests) I may have the budget for a CCD before I reach Stage 3's time frame.

As suggested the Atik 383 does look tempting :)

(I was thinking of getting a Cannon 1000d body and moding it at this point)

Stage 3 - in 10-12 months:

(CCD if not obtained at end of Stage 2)

Larger scope ~ mn190 ?

Surely I would have built an Obsy by then :p

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