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First Setup question(s)

Whaase
08 Aug, 2019 00:45
Hi! I've got the astro bug and I have been researching for the last 3 days and watching hours of Youtube on all options. I am wanting to get my feet wet and I think I have decided on the Sky-Watcher - Star Adventurer Pro Pack. I can pick it up for $499 CDN.

I have a lot of photography equipment already, so I would not need to invest in anything else in that area. The only thing I may pickup is a Samyang/Rokinon 130mm F2.

I do know this will not give me auto tracking, but I don't think there is an option for around the same price that would do that. I have seen many telescopes with auto trackers for around the same price, but from everything I can find, they are not that great for what I am looking for? I did find an almost new Nexstar 4se, but I read many people saying they were not good for nebulas etc..

My main, ultimate goal is DSO photography.

Am I on the right track? Anything I am missing or a different direction I should go?

Is there a auto tracking base around the $500 mark that I could directly mount my DSLR too that would be decent to start with?

Thanks!

Walter
carastro
09 Aug, 2019 09:25
If you want to do widefield AP the Star Adventurer Pro Pack. will certainly get you started.  But it won't give you long enough exposures to really get the best out of imaging.  I always regard the star adventurer as a travel scope for when you can't take your full kit with you.

Also normal cameras are not the best for AP as they need the IR filter removed otherwise that is excluding some of the wave lengths.

Astrophotography is not a cheap hobby.

Good luck though.

Carole
gnomus
09 Aug, 2019 12:22
I agree with Carole.  A lot of folks use the Star Adventurer as a lightweight travel option for extreme widefield views.  Many of those folks will have considerable experience and will understand the limitations of the rig and know how to get the best out of it.  I have one and find it quite ‘fiddly’.  If you are really interested in getting into DSO imaging then pretty much all of that kit will have to be replaced.  For the money you’re proposing to spend - 500 plus a Rokinon, you are not far away from being able to pick up a decent mount that would last you many years in imaging - an EQ5 or a used EQ6 possibly.  You could still put a camera on that and do widefield work with the lenses you have.

AP is not a cheap hobby, and purchasing errors can be very galling.  For that reason I’d strongly recommend buying a copy of ‘Making Every Photon Count’ by Steve Richards.  This will give you a much clearer idea of what is required.
Edited 09 Aug, 2019 13:52
carastro
09 Aug, 2019 13:22
Yup agree with Steve on his comments too.

The mount is the most important first purchase, it needs to be stable and capable of taking any future telescope you might want to put on it bearing in mind the payload for AP is half that recommended for visual.

I use an HEQ5 the smaller version of the NEQ6 mentioned by Steve, I find it adequate for my needs as I would never want to put a really heavy scope on it.  My biggest scope is an ED120 and I also mount a dual rig of ED80 and WOZS71 on it, so quite capable of carrying those and guiding OK.  It is a fair bit cheaper than the NEQ6/EQ6 but more stable than the EQ5.

Depending on where you live we have a very good second hand Astro equipment market in the UK and on the whole Astronomers want to upgrade so there are often good bits of kit for sale which has been looked after.

Carole
Edited 09 Aug, 2019 13:28
bobzeq25
10 Aug, 2019 15:13
You are very much on the right track.

If that's your budget, that's the way to go.  The mounts people are recommending are far too expensive for you.  An autoguider could be added, but the various bits would come close to doubling the price.  Polar align carefully, keep the focal length down (definitely below 200) and you'll be fine.  If you don't live in dark skies, taking the setup to them (after you get your feet wet) will be good.

People do nice work with a camera/lens/camera tracker.  I have a fine mount and multiple OTAs, still use my tracker sometimes.

You can learn most of the techniques, and see if this is something you want to get more involved with.  And make some nice images along the way.  It will occupy you for some time.

This book will be helpful.

http://www.astropix.com/bgda/index.html

If you do decide to go farther, yes, a Nexstar (any Nexstar) is not a good choice.  The book talks about going farther.  By then you'll be far better able to choose other equipment, nothing will help as much as experience imaging.
Edited 10 Aug, 2019 15:18
Starstarter86
10 Aug, 2019 22:56
Hi Walter,

I don't necessarily agree with Steve and Carole on the Star Adventurer. Up to now it is my first and only mount, I have
owned it since last September and I have had quite some success with it.

First of all, you can actually use autoguiding with an star adventurer,
albeit only in RA, so you will learn how to polar align properly very
quickly smile  But this will rougly set you back another $300 CDN for a guidescope and guidecam; But if you are planning to image at
focal length up to 135 mm and an APS-C sensor, even without guiding you
can do exposures of 3-4 Minutes without star trailing. At F2 or even F4
that's plenty enough. Heck, in the beginning I even did 2 min unguided
@432mm, you don't get too much star trailing as long as you don't image
below let's say 45° declination.

Walter Haase
Is there a auto tracking base around the $500 mark that I could directly mount my DSLR too that would be
decent to start with?
To clear up any misconceptions, there is no mount which can do autoguiding by itself, you will always need an extra guidescope and a guidecam and a laptop
to do that. The are only a few mounts with such good tracking you can get away without autoguiding, all of which are waaayyy beyond that pricepoint.

With autoguiding on an Star Adventurer, you can easily do 6 min exposures with a 432mm scope: https://www.astrobin.com/417637/?nc=user
Guiding RMS error will be arround 2-2.5 arcsec which is not that bad for such a small mount (Good polar alignment provided)
Also, the DSLR I used for this Image is unmodified, so for starters you can
use your normal DSLR! In general, unmodified DSLRs will work well on
Galaxies and Reflection/Reflection-Emission Nebulaes like M42 and the
Pleiades, but not so well on pure Emission Nebulae like the Rosette or
the Heart Nebula.
But I do agree with Steve on the point that the Star Adventurer is a fiddly mount! First of all you
have to check that there's no play in the polar wedge. And before you
get started you should check that the polar scope is properly aligned
with the RA Axis, and if it is not, adjust it. This is a very tricky
thing to do! Also this mount likes to be balanced east-heavy by quite a
bit. And I have found (empirically smile  ) that 3kg (counterweight excluded) is the photographic weight limit for this
mount. If you want some more helpful reading on the star adventurer, I
recommend this group: https://www.astrobin.com/forum/c/group-forums/skywatcher-star-adventurer/

Another thing I love about the star adventurer, and not a lot of people will
agree with me on this, is the way this mount is absolutely manual; No
Go-To, you have to find any target by hand. This way, from my point of
view,  you will learn a lot more about the night sky and the way it
moves than by pushing a button on a handset.
I have recently pushed this little mount to its limits, imaging at a very small image
scale (1,4 arcsec/pixel) and even that was possible with this little
mount:
https://www.astrobin.com/420184/B/?nc=user . Sure, this is not high-end astrophotography like the stuff Steve and Carole and Bob do, but it's not too bad either.

That said, I have now reached a point where I my mount is my limiting factor
after one year, but I know I will continue with my SA for quite some
time nonetheless. And even once I decide to upgrade to a better mount (
the HEQ5 Carole mentioned is one I have in mind) I will still be able to
use the guiding equipment and still have a star tracker for wide field
shots. So If you are planning to learn this step by step, the star
adventurer is a good starting point with quite some potential.
Another alternative you could consider, which is only slightly more pricey, is the iOptron Mount SmartEQ: https://www.ontariotelescope.com/SmartEQ-Pro_p_402.html  With this mount, you get the added benefit of being able to guide in
DEC as well, and have Go-To-functionality. But I do't have any hands-on
experience with that one.

I wish you a good start to astrophotography, hope I haven't confused you and wish you clear skies,

Marc
Whaase
11 Aug, 2019 00:57
Thanks everyone for the reply's.

I understand everyone's point of view. I think I will proceed with the Star Adventurer. As mentioned, it will give me a good start into what I am looking to do without a huge investment. I live in a bortle 7 area but, I do have the Rocky Mountains within 30 minutes from me. I think if I have to haul all that gear, try and learn, it may get more frustrating to start smile

Walter
bobzeq25
11 Aug, 2019 18:50
Walter Haase
Thanks everyone for the reply's.I understand everyone's point of view. I think I will proceed with the Star Adventurer. As mentioned, it will give me a good start into what I am looking to do without a huge investment. I live in a bortle 7 area but, I do have the Rocky Mountains within 30 minutes from me. I think if I have to haul all that gear, try and learn, it may get more frustrating to start smile

Walter

Sure.  Learn in your backyard.  Get some images you like.  When you can see how dark skies would help, try them.

Two tips.  Take the camera calibration frames; bias, flats, darks, from the start.  Without them you're likely to learn bad habits in processing.  Processing is hard enough, without having to unlearn bad habits.

Astro Pixel Processor is a good program to start with.  Both stacks and processes, relatively easy to use, quite competent.
Die_Launische_Diva
11 Aug, 2019 20:21
Hello Walter!

I agree with bobzeq25. Use your equipment at your backyard to familiarize with the night sky and equipment. No need to modify your camera. Use a prime lens if possible and invest in learning how to correct your images for vignetting by using proper "flat frames" and for light pollution "gradients" with a specialized software of your choice. I am a fan of Pixinsight but you may have a look at Astro Pixel Processor. I won't discourage you from using photoshop or something similar; just keep it for the very late stages of your processing work flow.

If everything goes well 😁 and you decide that astrophotography is for you, the Star Adventurer will still be useful for other things like wide-field starscapes and time-lapses. If not, your losses will be minimal 🙂

Cheers and enjoy the night skies!
Gorkon
11 Aug, 2019 22:12
I left the hobby four years ago due to a medical issue.  I am back now and planned to start up where I left off.  Boy, what a revelation when I got on astrobin and started looking at images here.  You can enter a search term for camera, telescope, mount, just about anything.  You end up getting images from all over the world, most with all the technical data about how the image was done.  I had already invested in an Orion EON 130mm Apochromat and a Celestron CGX mount (excellent tracking and goto).  I was really surprised to find that the best images were a high number of unguided short exposure frames.  Four years ago it was the opposite with only about twenty frames, guided, 2-3 minutes long.  What happened to change that?  It's a free software called SharpCap 3.2.  Before you invest in anything you need to check out this software, it is sweeping the hobby!  You can find a super/easy tutorial by going to Highpoint Scientific, scroll to the bottom of the page on the right and you will see an article about taking deep sky images the easy way.  The tech guys there are an excellent resource also.  The other excellent resource is at Starizona.com.  Everybody knows Dean there.  Anyone of the guys will help you.  They produce the Hyperstar lens that is so popular with the SCT crowd.  Bottom line is that you can get excellent deep sky images without tracking!  If I would have known about SharpCap I would not have upgraded to the CGX and saved bunches of money.  This is not the end-all solution of course, but it can get you started with minimal investment in hardware and software.  Be patient and have fun!  If you think your images are not good, post them anyway.  You'll get excellent feedback from others.
McComas
13 Aug, 2019 12:31
Google some of Peter Zelinka YouTube videos (I didn't read all the above, maybe someone suggested this). I don't have a spot near my house for AP and have to travel 150 miles, so I ordered the SkyGuider Pro and the Auto Guider he recommended. Now just waiting on gear to arrive and, of course, clear skies on my day off. Good Luck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WuBKfo_KMo

https://www.peterzelinka.com/star-tracker-tutorials
Edited 13 Aug, 2019 15:40
Rich-sky
13 Aug, 2019 14:45
Good luck with new gear
Edited 15 Aug, 2019 05:25
Rich-sky
13 Aug, 2019 15:03
Good luck with new gear
Edited 15 Aug, 2019 05:26
tomtom2245
13 Aug, 2019 22:29
I agree, the SA is a good way to start out. I started with wide field astro and found it a great jumping point to moving on up to using a scope. Mounts like the SA and Skyguider are great for helping you get the basics down. I even still use mine every time I head out. It is a reliable option that I can setup to start a widefield sequence (18mm on up to 135mm) and let that run through the night while I get my bigger refractor setup and going.
CCDnOES
14 Aug, 2019 22:14
I would second most of the above. I have been doing AP for over 25 years and have owned so many mounts, cameras,  scopes and focusers that I have long ago lost count.  Bottom line for DSO is this:

In business it is location, location, location. In astro-imaging, it is mount, mount, mount. It is literally the foundation of everything. If you want to go unguided for more than a very few minutes (1-3) with anything more than short focal length camera lenses, you will  need a mount that is probably way more than most beginners want to spend. Think $5000-$25,000 depending on payload. For lesser mounts (think $2000-$5000), you will need to guide. Below that price, the mounts are often imprecise enough that even guiding at moderate focal lengths becomes a challenge due to mechanical inaccuracies.  This is not to say the mount is the only factor, just the biggest one.

Like most imagers, I learned what not to buy the hard way and there are very few exceptions to the basic rule of "you get what you paid for".  Not something the beginner likes to hear - but there it is. smile

 The best thing to do by far is to get to know (personally and locally) someone who is an advanced amatuer and who has "been there and done that". The net is a good place to start but humans did not evolve to communicate in text so it is not an especially ideal method to get really detailed information and have a good exchange of Q and A. Spend lots of  imaging time with them, some of it hands-on, and talk to them about what you want to accomplish. You will either decide to proceed and wind up with at least useful equipment based on their advice or decide that the cost of what you want to do is beyond your willingness to spend.
 
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