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Thread: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

  1. #1
    Eratosthenes's Avatar
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    Default Inexpensive Camera Mounts



    I have been lurking and reading many threads on Astronomy Forum over the past year and now I am looking for a minimalist approach to astrophotography (after realizing that I did not have the budget for a larger EQ mount that I can grow into). Currently I am using my wife’s old hand-me-down setup based upon a Celestron 130 SLT to practice on, and then I put my camera onto her 12-inch GOTO dob to do some planetary imaging this summer. But I will be wanting to do some DSO imaging later on this year and I know that the 130 SLT won’t be enough for me.

    So I have my used Canon T3 with a stock Canon EFS 55mm – 250mm zoom lens, and I realize that I can do a lot with this if I could only take shots longer than 20 seconds that I can right now on the old 130 SLT. I then reread this thread here:

    Article: Building an EQ Wedge To Capture Nightscape Images

    And I said to myself … this is the setup I want right now! Problem … I am not very handy, so that means I have to buy something. So I am looking for the cheapest system to mount my camera and stock zoom lens so I can get at least 40 second images with my zoom lens at 250mm preferably 60+ seconds. So here are my options:

    1. Buy a Camera Tracker Mount - Cost with tripod and accessories ~$500.00
    Skywatcher, iOptron, and other manufacture these lightweight setups.
    - Pros - Lightweight and portable, should be able to provide tracking for 40+ seconds
    - Cons – Not GOTO

    2. Buy an inexpensive EQ mount with clock drives – Cost - ~$350.00 - $400.00
    Both the Celestron CG4 and the Orion Astroview are good candidates
    - Pros – Cheaper than the camera trackers, can get exposures of 60 – 90 seconds unguided
    - Cons – Not GOTO, heavier

    3. Buy an iOptron Smart EQ Pro – Cost $499.00
    - Pros – Lightweight and portable, should be able to provide tracking for my camera and lens for 60+ seconds, it is also GOTO!

    4. Buy a Celestron Nexstar 4se (with built in wedge) – Cost $499.00 (now on sale for $399.00)
    - Pros – GOTO, lightweight and portable, should be able to provide tracking for my camera and lens for at least 40 seconds easily, maybe 60+ if I get luck with the polar alignment.
    - Cons – Not as capable of delivering long exposures as the cheaper clock driven EQ mounts, or as the more expensive Smart EQ Pro.

    Summary, I had read what sxinias has said about not buying a 4se, but using it for astrophotography only if you already have one. I am now wondering if it would be worth it to buy one now since it is on sale for $399.00 (I wish I could just buy the mount without the telescope … that would make it even cheaper). Yes the 4se sounds fiddly to setup and align, but once setup it is a GOTO. The CG4 and the Astroview with their clock drives are also cheap, but their lack of GOTO ability means more fiddling every time I want to change targets. Until I looked at the back of this month’s Astronomy Magazine and saw that Celestron was having a sale on all their Nexstar SEs I was thinking I would rather go for the SmartEQ. But our budget is rather tight, so $100 might be enough to swing the price point between the two.

    Yes, I know that I am obsessing and penny pinching … but what is the most minimalist mount for DSO astrophotography for someone who is not handy.

    Thoughts and comments?

    Thank you


    Jon
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    My Equipment - Celestron 130SLT (6 inch) goto reflector) and Orion SkyQuest XT8 (8 inch classic dob)
    Canon Rebel T3 (1100D) DSLR
    Wife's Scope - Sky-Watcher 12” GoTo Collapsible Dobsonian

  2. #2
    Ozman13's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    Personally, I would go with the CG4 and the single axis drive (not the Astroview with the aluminum tripod) for it's sturdiness and versatility (you can put a large variety of possible future scopes on it).

    The LAST thing I would purchase would be the SE mount. Not only is the wedge so hard to work around and align properly, but the tracking of the mount is just not up to the task in many cases (some exceptions of course, will you get one?). You would get vastly superior results from the CG4.

    I may be tempted by the iOptron Smart EQ Pro, I have no experience with them, but I would not want to sacrifice stability or the ability to expand to include a scope for the convenience of goto, especially thinking about a minimalist approach.
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    LX200 ACF 8"SCT, Apertura AD12, Celestron C6A SCT, SkyWatcher 120, ES 102CF Apo triplet, ES AR102, ST100, ST90, Apex 90mm Mak, ST80, ETX60, Oberwerk 25x100s, 15x70s, 8x56s, Kasai 2.3x40s, Celestron AVX, CG4, SLT, LCM, Obie HD Parallel Bino mount, Canon T5, Meade DSI2 Pro, Phillips cam, Explore Scientific 30mm, 24mm, 18mm, 14mm, 11mm, 8.8mm, 6.7mm 82 degree EPs, ES 24mm, 20mm, 16mm 68 degree EPs, Baader 9mm Ortho, Meade 5000 SWA EP set, many more various EPs, Baader Moon&SkyGlow, FringeKiller, SemiApo filters, Celestron UHC, Meade 4000 Nebular Filter, Kson OIII, DGM NPB and lots of astro stuff.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    Preliminary question to ask yourself:
    What sort of AP Imaging do you wish to do?? DSO or Widefield or Planetary/Lunar?? (They require different setups, and different things from a setup...)

    It sounds like you are currently looking to gear up to do Widefield Imaging (your 250mm end of the Zoom Lens will afford you the larger DSOs - Andromeda, Orion, Pleiades).
    If you are truly not looking to add additional Focal Length (and weight), then any of #1, #2, #3 will work for you (and you could dismount the 4SE and mount your Camera/Lens in its place.
    If you expect to add Longer Focal Length Lenses, you will quickly exceed the realistic weight capacity of the Camera Tracking Mount. (After all, you need to add the weight of a Ball-head Mount to most of the designs.)

    So, I'd suggest that you go directly to #3 - which gives you the most Growth Options as well as the most Features.
    ES AR152 / ES 80ED Apo / Orion 8in F/3.9 / C9.25-SCT / C6-SCT / C10-NGT / AT6RC / ST-80 / AstroView 90 / Meade 6000 APO 115mm
    CGEM (w HyperTune and ADM bling) / 2x CG5-AGT / Forest of Tripod legs / Star Adventurer / Orion EQ-G
    550D (Modded-G.Honis) / 60D / 400D / NexImage / NexGuide / Mini 50 SSAG / ST-8300C / ASI120MM-S / ASI1600MM-Cool
    Dark Skies in SW CO when I can get there, and badly light polluted backyard when I can't... (Currently Self-Exiled to Muggy Central Florida...)

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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    My wife bought me an HEQ5 pro together with a Skywatcher 200 PDS. I've added my Sony NEX-5N and a starshooter autoguider and I can tell I'm already over the weight limits (although getting some very nice photos). What my wife bought me is definitely helping me learn the trade and I'm having a great time. In hindsight it would be great to have an EQ6 or even an EQ8, however I will get a few years out of this HEQ5 before I get frustrated.
    Beginner: 7 weeks experience. Skywatcher 200PDS on HEQ5 mount with Synscan goto. Orion magnificent mini delux 9x50 guide scope with Orion Starshoot autoguider. Sony NEX-5N camera. Toshiba Flashair wifi SDHC card. Long exposure IR Intervalometer.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    1. You can save a LOT of money if you buy used. As long as you can trust the guy you're buying from and he had good experience with the particular mount you're thinking of buying, it can work out well. Bit of risk, of course.

    2. I had a CG-4 and it was very good for accurate tracking. (My telescope with the mount was focal length = 480mm and I could get 30 sec subs as long as I had good PA.) You can get a used CG-4 for about $250. But as you note, not having GO-TO makes life complicated.

    3. I upgraded to an AVX (used). GO-TO is incredibly good and I can get 120 sec subs as long as I have good PA (telescope FL = 480mm). If you're patient, you can get a used AVX for $550. (I got mine used from someone close to home for $575.)

    For instance:

    https://www.cloudynights.com/classif...ries-for-sale/

    selling for $525

    Clears,
    Joe
    In lumine tuo videbimus lumen

    SCOPES: DIY f/4.5 17.5” Dob -- Meade f/9 102mm APO -- Astro-Tech 80mm (achromat) -- Celestron SCT C8 -- Sigma f/5.6 400mm APO lens
    SOFTWARE: DSS -- StarTools -- GIMP -- Bahtinov Grabber 64
    EPs: TV Nagler 13mm / PARKS Gold Series--5 pieces / Zhumell 3mm
    MOUNT: Celestron AVX ****
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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    Be very careful, you are treading on the edge of a precipice...
    A very expensive precipice...
    If you only want to do wide field imaging a light weight mount on the order of a Vixen GP will work. About a 16 LB payload.
    I started with a Vixen GP, with my C8 (Grey) and Celestron 80 mm f 7.5 ED "spotting scope". Staked on the GP, I seriously overloaded the mount - but got great pictures in dead calm air. Then I got rid of that and got a Losmandy GM8, 40 lb payload. I had that for a long time and I finally got a CGX, 55 Lb payload.
    OK, technically I don't have the CGX yet, it's still in the mail from OPT.
    I will be mounting my C8HD on it with the 80 ED. Depending on the target I guide with one and image with the other. Cameras are either a Canon 5D Mk II or 7D Mk II, with a MEAD DSI II guide camera.
    For "wide filed" I'll swap out the 80 mm and mount a Canon 300 f2.8 or 100-400 4/4.5.
    All my mount gear but the CGX was used. Nothing wrong with used gear, it's not like this stuff is used to beat off the animals.
    If there is even the slightest bit of a possibility you will transition to larger OTA's away from camera lenses, get a German Equatorial mount. You can just about build a door hinge tracker for a light camera set up.
    Bryan
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  7. #7
    sxinias's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inexpensive Camera Mounts

    Astrophotography on the cheap. Really there is no cheap, only less expensive. You need a camera, mount/tripod, and telescope.

    You already have a usable camera and mount.

    Your Celestron SLT mount will do very well for azimuth mount photography using very short exposures. With it all you need is a suitable telescope. An inexpensive 80 mm short tube refractor will do very well such as an used Orion ST80A. If you can not find one then the Orion CT80 refractor will do. Either one with dove tail and finder will cost less than $200 and will also serve for many other uses. Either telescope on the SLT mount will perform very well allowing you to photograph hundreds of deep space objects. At f/5 the scope is very fast producing a strong signal even with very short exposures. Just stack a couple hundred images to lower noise and you will get some very nice images.

    Keep in mind that if you spend $400 for a new 4SE you still need $200 or more to buy a telescope because the 4SE f/13 MAK is simply is too slow for very short exposure work.

    Doing a polar alignment with a 4SE mount can be very frustrating and time consuming. Having used a 4SE mount for many images, I still have the same opinion, if you already have a 4SE you can use it, if you do not have one, save your money for a better mount such as the iOptron ZEQ25. The difference between the two is astronomical.

    Closing, use your existing SLT mount.
    SXINIAS

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    iOptron ZEQ25 mount; SkyWatcher SynScan AZ GOTO Mount;
    Orion ST-80A 80mm Refractor (OTA); Meade LX200 203mm SCT (OTA);
    Meade DS2090AT 90mm Refractor; Meade 2045LX3 102mm SCT;
    Celestron NexStar 4 SE 102mm MAK; Celestron Advanced Series C6S (XLT) 150mm SCT
    with an iOptron GOTO Drive

    My Photos:
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