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Thread: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

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    Default Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.



    A few months back I purchased a 10" dob that got me into this rewarding hobby. I have since really wanted to take some pictures of what I have seen. But i'm really not sure where to start with astrophotography. I have never been one that likes taking baby steps so I'm thinking I want to start by purchasing an entire set up if one was available somewhere. I would like to be able to image planets to start but would like to have the capability of imaging dso's. So I need the tracking capability and a solid base. I'm not worried to much about portability as most imaging will be done from my house. I'm prepared to spend about 5k on the entire set up. That would be scope, camera and everything. There are just so many options I'm not sure which would be the best.
    Should I start wit a DSLR or CCD camera? Thanks for any and all advice. I know its a pretty open ended questions. Just looking for advice and recommendations.

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    I have the same level of interest in AP and prefer to buy a quality setup as well. So I understand your perspective. I would recommend you post this in them AP forum. I wouldn't expect to get the same response in the beginner's forum.

    The key reason I am not giving any setup advice is I am still a beginner myself. Hopefully some of the AP pros can give better advice.

    As for my plan, I am looking more at getting a quality dslr with either the ioptron or vixen motorized mount. I think I have the tripod already. The cost for this I estimate to be around $1100 (dslr and vixen or IOptron mount) and the family can use the dslr for other photo needs than just AP. I understand I can get some wide field photos and learn a bit of photo processing as well.

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Thanks for the tip. I was unsure on where to place it.

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Mods can I get this thread moving to AP forum?

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    At the moment I suspect this thread is still best left in the Beginner's forum.

    If you want to get a complete set-up you may want to call OPT Corp and talk to them. They can put together an entire system for you.

    But I recommend you hold off until you have read at least two good books on AP. "Astrophotography" by Thierry Legault and "The Deep-Sky Imaging Primer" by Charles Bracken are probably the two best at the moment. Allan Hall has published several which will get you quickly up and running and which I like a lot, but for choosing a system I recommend reading at least one of the first two.

    When you are choosing a system you need to determine the kind of imaging you want to do. You must have a budget. You need to know where you will do the imaging and how you will be getting there. You need to know what your imaging conditions will normally be. You need to know how you want to do your imaging. Will you have an observatory? Will you be guiding - and if so, how? What software will you use for post-processing? What percentage of your clear-sky time do you want to be doing your imaging? Do you want set-point cooling of your camera? Yeah, there's more but that would be a start.

    When you fully understand all those questions and at least sort of have the answers then you can start the iterative process of choosing a system. Putting together a great system is an art and there is no one system which can do a great job at all kinds of imaging. Take your time, read the books, go to your local astronomy club and see how the imagers in your club are doing their imaging.

    There are any number of us who could easily recommend a system which would serve one or another style of astrophotography, but doing it well means knowing a lot of detail about your opportunities and priorities.

    If you decide not to do the research so that you can learn how to prioritize and really make the system fit you, then answer as many of the questions as you can and we'll make recommendations for assembling a system which we think should make you happy. But doing the research helps you to learn how to prioritize and teaches you what is possible and the strengths and weaknesses and you'll be far better in the end if you learn to assemble a system and then double-check with us to make sure your expectations match your equipment.

    If you visit the imaging forum you will find at least hundreds of different configurations being used. It's probably more like thousands. That's because there is simply no single system which suits everyone. Actually, there usually is no single system which fits all the needs/interests of even a single individual.

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Hi, well looking at your budget, I think an 8 inch Newt, on an HEQ5pro, with a mono CCD and RGB filter wheel. This will take up your 5k but it will last a long time!! Depending on where you buy it you may be able to get a motorized focuser as well. I bought my 8 inch newt 5 years ago, and it is still my main imaging scope. At the time I though it was too much, but I am pleased I bought it. I have upgraded the focuser, and tube(to carbon). The HEQ5pro is a nice portable setup, and at our last house I did put a pier in the back yard which made it even better.
    I you can stretch to a CCD (ideally mono) then you will be set for a long time.
    Good luck with your choice and clear Skies

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    Mount:PMX+ Scope:FSQ106DX4, Skywatcher Quattro 300 Newt Cameras:Atik383L+ mono with EFW2 filter wheel, Canon T2i modded, ZWO120mm-S for planetary, SBIG STi mono for guiding

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    Default

    5K can go a lot further than just a scope, mount and camera. You could get those 3 things and a guide scope, guide camera and a handful of accessories.

    If you don't want to take baby steps, then you'll likely need a computer to assist you in guiding and image capturing. Do you have a computer that could be used to hook up to all your astro gear (likely a laptop)?

    A DSLR would be cheaper than a CCD + filter wheel + filters and can capture images just as well. Also, it is a lot easier to work with and edit the images in post processing. Once again, not taking baby steps, you could order a DSLR and have it shipped directly to Gary Honis and have him modify it for astro use, then when he's done he'll send it to you ready to go - that's what I did.
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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Thanks for the help! I have ordered the recomended books as they seem to be recomended by many. I have been thinking about going with a ccd mainly because people seem to want to eventually "upgrade" to them after using a dslr (not the only reason though). Any hobby I get into I like to buy what I will eventually need upfront. I hate spending extra money to upgrade later. Honestly the learning curve is one of my favorite parts. I also have a few laptops laying around the house. I'm not agains a DSLR camera, just wanting to make sure I make the right initial purchase.

    Trust me when I say in don't just jump head first into a purchase. Every thing will be properly researched before chosen and purchased. Thanks again. You guys have been a big help.
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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Good advice above. One good rule of thumb to go by when you get ready to buy your astrophotography kit...if you still have questions, you still have homework to do.
    SXINIAS

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    Default Re: Second scope options. Wanting to get into astrophotography.

    Quote Originally Posted by blakeb View Post
    Thanks for the help! I have ordered the recomended books as they seem to be recomended by many. I have been thinking about going with a ccd mainly because people seem to want to eventually "upgrade" to them after using a dslr (not the only reason though). Any hobby I get into I like to buy what I will eventually need upfront. I hate spending extra money to upgrade later. Honestly the learning curve is one of my favorite parts. I also have a few laptops laying around the house. I'm not agains a DSLR camera, just wanting to make sure I make the right initial purchase.

    Trust me when I say in don't just jump head first into a purchase. Every thing will be properly researched before chosen and purchased. Thanks again. You guys have been a big help.
    As you will learn, it really isn't necessarily straightforward as to whether a CCD or a DSLR is better. It is a matter of matching everything to everything else in your system.

    To illustrate? I have a Mallincam Universe (MCU). I really like that camera.
    1. The MCU is cooled to a set temperature. That means that I don't have to shoot as many dark calibration subs - and I don't even have to do them at night because I can put on the cap and do them during daylight hours inside my house. No need at all to waste dark-sky imaging time shooting those darks!
    2. The sensor is a little larger than the APS-C sensors in the typical DSLR but has only about 6 million photosites. This means I've got relatively large photosites for relatively short subs with better dynamic range and a better SNR.
    3. The cooling also reduces the noise to yield a better SNR.
    4. It's a One-Shot-Color (OSC) which means a bit less time processing and it doesn't require the same skill level to process.
    5. It is sufficiently sensitive that with a modestly fast telescope you really can use it for NRTV (Near-Real-Time Viewing) sort of like folk do with astronomical video cameras.
    4. The user group is quite active so if you have a question you can post and likely have a skilled answer from Rock Mallin or one of the other skilled members of the group within minutes to hours. Occasionally you might go a day under strange circumstances. Along the same lines you can count on Rock to stand behind the camera and to fix it if it doesn't work right.
    5. I've acquired some unusual optics which are designed to focus nicely with the MCU. They would not focus with a DSLR.

    This suits me well since I don't want to do guiding at this time. Maybe later, but not now. So I can do pretty rapid acquisitions of relatively dim objects and then process them in a relatively short period of time. It also suits the fact that I'm not a very dedicated astronomer in a sense - I have a job which requires that I be fairly sharp and that doesn't fit with being avoidably sleep-deprived so I don't spend all night under the night skies. That sleep deprivation avoidance means I have limited time for observing and imaging and that means that an unusually sensitive camera is something which I greatly prefer.

    But all is not roses with such a camera:
    1. It has amp glow which is noticeable (but nicely handled with calibration frames). I don't like amp glow and I understand a lot of very good (but somewhat less-sensitive) cooled-CCD cameras have considerably less.
    2. Putting fewer photosites into a pretty-good-sized sensor means my potential resolution is less. Seriously, I also own a Canon T4i which has three times as many photosites in a somewhat smaller sensor. That means something. But since I tend to like relatively wide-field images it is not a horrible drawback. Also, since sometimes my seeing isn't all that great anyway you can argue that I may not be losing that much resolution much of the time - but those few times I'm in wonderfully dark skies at altitude and little turbulence it would be nice to be using a camera with better potential resolution. Drizzling really does help, but you should be dithering to make that work. . .
    3. It is a relatively large camera and that means that if I someday use a Hyperstarred Celestron I'm going to have more problems with diffraction.
    4. It is an OSC camera. That means that I can't be shooting LRGB or Hubble Palette. It also means that it is not as sweet a camera for hauling out under light polluted skies (full Moon greatly contributes) and shoot narrowband with relatively fast acquisition rates. Arguably a limited concern for most of us.
    5. Limited software support. You are officially still pretty much limited to doing your subs using the supplied software. It's not bad software but since Mallincam really isn't a software company and the sensor is not at all a common one I don't think there is any other software you can use for this purpose as of yet although I think AstroLive Pro will soon be released with good support for this camera.

    OK, now that I've bored you. . . This is a non-comprehensive illustration of the kinds of pros and cons associated with just one camera. And I didn't bother with the more detailed analysis which others might choose to do. I'm not trying to either pump up or to denigrate the camera - it has served my purposes quite nicely but might be a horrible choice for you.

    Some day I may start using a DSLR for certain types of imagery to which it is better suited. I've already got the camera but I've just enjoyed the MCU enough to not bother with that.

    Now to the point. The camera was chosen to fit the kind of imaging I want to do with the kind of time-frame I have for imaging and because I can use it in both a sort of imaging mode and in an NRTV mode. I can be observing using my imaging rig and at the same time doing sub acquisition and there is very little out there which can do the same thing.

    It suits my purposes and my equipment - pretty nicely matched to that.

    Now to make the choosing more complex? You can get a cooled DSLR for some really low-noise and surprising sensitive imaging capability. JTW Astronomy's cameras appear to be a great example of that. The problem is that actually getting the camera into your hands was problematic in the past and may (or may not) still be a problem.

    OK, I'm sort of the curmudgeon on the forum who makes things more difficult so let me point out something which is not pointed out frequently enough IMHO. You want to match your camera and (to a degree) your accessory optics to your scope in non-obvious ways. A good astrographic scope when properly focused will be projecting onto that focal plane a focused circle.

    The size of that "image circle" is important because if your image circle is much larger than your sensor it means that you are wasting much of the light/signal/data being collected by your telescope. If your image circle is smaller than your sensor you will get vignetting and won't like that very much. You can make the image circle somewhat smaller if you use a focal reducer. Of course, if you get a camera with a larger sensor then you can handle (and probably want) a larger image circle - and a full-frame DSLR might be what you want.

    Well, I should shut up now and let you do your research. Suffice to say that there really isn't a simple answer as to which is best. You end up wanting to know what are the important factors, what is on the market to potentially satisfy your priorities, and then go through the iterative process of matching the different possible equipment choices to those priorities. In the end you'll have a good balanced system for your purposes.
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