View Full Version here: : Imaging setup opinions and advice please
27-06-2012, 08:44 PM
Soon I will be in a position to put together an imaging setup and although I've read many threads over the years about what is the best approach for an imaging 'beginner', I'd still like to canvass some thoughts here from the punters on what particulars I need to acquire which will fit into a budget of $3k. What I've established thus far is that I need 4 primary components: Mount, OTA, Guidescope & camera. Here is what I've put together...
Mount: I know the mount good foundations to a setup so I really can't go past an NEQ6 ($1800) with a capacity of 20kg.
Scope: Use my current BinTel 10" OTA. Cost: nil
Guidescope: Orion Guidescope package (80mm): $520. Weight: 1.1kg
Camera: I need some suggestions on a suitable camera. I was looking at Orion Starshoot G3 for start. $630.
Along with my current laptop, OTA rings, a few cables and sundry items, is there any major components I am missing?
28-06-2012, 09:25 AM
You will probably need a flattener/reducer/coma corrector for the 10", it is a Newtonian I'm guessing?
Imaging with a 10" Newt is a challenge for a first go, but doable.
I wouldn't choose the Orion Starshoot G3, it is really low resolution and not a great match for your gear, perhaps look 2nd hand for a OSC camera with some more pixels. You may want to look at a DSLR as a first step.
You will probably find you will get some flex with the newt, so factor in a focuser upgrade and some stiffening if required.
You will want bahtinov mask or similar, and make some choices as to guiding and acquisition software.
28-06-2012, 10:04 AM
Don't forget software. Decent acquisition and processing software can easily head north of $1000
That guided package is ok but you will be fighting flex between those 2 setups if yo use stock connection mechanism. So factor some cost to get rigid connection between scope and guide ota
I recently got into Astrophotography too (Earlier this year) and found out the hard way things I wish I could differently! First off, yes, your NEQ6 is perfect. I went from a EQ5 to the NEQ6 – it’s a great mount. Bit of hassle to set up as I don’t have the luxury of having a permanent setup but its manageable.
As for the guiding, I used to have the Orion setup your considering but honestly don’t think it was worth it (I mean the SSAG, sold it off in the end). I bought a used GPUSB for $60 and a $30 webcam and just taped the CCD onto a 1.25” barrel. After doing direct comparisons I found my webcam to be clearer, and a little more sensitive. So that’s a savings of about $200 right there. Downside is that you now need two USB ports instead of the simplicity of just one for the SSAG. If your still inclined to go for a SSAG then just get a QHY5 from Theo in VIC (Gamma electronics), the SSAG is just a rebranded QHY5 (And in fact has some features disabled which are enabled in the QHY5. Ive forgotten what they were but I can find the links again if you wish). The 80ST itself is great though, I love being able to move the scope around to find a good star that I can guide on. I find PHD guiding to be really good software and is free as well.
For your imaging telescope, the 10” OTA is good to start on (considering its ‘free’) but I found it a hassle to lug my 8” onto my EQ5, so unless u have someone to always help you put it on and off then it’ll just be a case of ‘I cant be bothered’ on some nights. Even if you have a permanent setup, it’s still recommended not to store your mount under load as over time it will put more wear and tear on your mount. Having used about 5 telescopes by now, my personal favorite is my 80ST + 80ED combination. I honestly cannot tell you how much a pleasure it is to use and if I had to start again, I’d buy this combo first. First off, the 80ED these days can be picked up really cheap. Secondly I’m sure you already know how great its pictures are for imaging. I would recommend a Field Flattener (FF) though, but if your just starting out I’d considering getting that later (Unless you can budget it now). You’ll have a hard enough time coming to grips with learning post processing and good imaging techniques, don’t be stressed out if you can’t afford a FF just yet. Thirdly, the 80ST’s focal length is similar to the 80ED so any guiding errors wont be as obvious in the 80ED. I used to struggle a little with getting good tracking my 8” newt with my 80ST (I didn’t have a NEQ6 so my EQ5 couldn’t handle a 8” + 80ED combo), but it wasn’t bad. Lastly, I really really struggled with getting some of my cameras into focus with a newt. Newts tend to have the focus point closer to the focuser. In my case it just wouldn’t work at all, so I couldn’t used a t-ring and had to (In a really dodgy and unsecure way) force into the focuser’s draw tube. So just be weary of that, it may happen to you or may not. Lastly, I can pick the whole combo up in one hand and mount it onto my NEQ6 with the other. It really is quite light, and being so, your NEQ6 will thank you for it.
As for your camera, I’ll leave that up to you. I used my 6 year old Nikon D80 for the first few months, and it really did taught me a lot about what I enjoy imaging, where the deficiencies lie etc. And I thought the images were great, I’ll upload some to show you that expensive cameras arnt always worth it. I’d recommend to get into imaging one step at a time rather than spending at once. It gives you time to explore what you enjoy and can tailor your needs later on. As you probably know you should tailor your CCD to match the scope, to get a good pixel angular sampling size. No point getting a cheapie CCD now and then regretting it later, and not being able to sell it 2nd hand. Out of the whole experience, I think learning to stack and edit the images is the hardest part. That alone will take a very long time to master, without having to worry about all your other gear.
I want to finish by saying it just comes down to ease of the damn thing. It used to take me almost an hour getting everything set up and good to go, to the point where some good nights I just couldn’t be bothered. It partially my equipment, and partially me. After all my experience, I can now set up in under 20min and pack up in the same time. It’s a real bonus especially since I wake up for work at 6.30 and get home at 6.30 too. Don’t spend in a haste, just buy progressively and learn about your equipment, and yourself, one clear night at a time. Living in Melbourne, I can assure that took many months :P Anyway, sorry for the essay! Hope this helps, if you have any Qs just gimme a shout J
Here are some pics I've taken with the 80ED and my 6-year old DSLR. Only the Trifid nebula and Cent A galaxy was taken in the NEQ6 last night, the rest were taken with my old EQ5. I can definitely improve on these, I didn't take enough photos to stack. But as you can see, theres still a fair amount you can do with little equipment. I live only 25km from the CBD of Melbourne too so light pollution is a bit of a problem.
Anyways I think thatís enough writing for now. You already seem to have a good footing which is great. Hope this helps! Do let us know what you decide on :)
28-06-2012, 06:04 PM
For a 10" OTA primary imaging scope I'd probably suggest an on or off access guider. It's too long a focal length to play around with. Differential flexure is a killer at these focal lengths!
28-06-2012, 06:29 PM
I would go a dslr over the Orion Starshoot G3, I think you would see alot more out of it image res and quality wise. To me its what you call a nice guide cam but other then that i would probably only use it for planetary work. I've never used one and a far from being an expert with ccd's but the specs look really sad, low res, color and a cheap shoty cooling solution which will do more harm then good likely from fan vibrations.
28-06-2012, 08:10 PM
Thanks to you all for the feedback. You've provided me with a lot of food for thought and in conjunction with some brief research today I've modified my thoughts slightly.
The mount decision is definitely locked in with an NEQ6. I don't think there's any debate with this.
Hi Matthew, thanks for your reply, yeah I did look at the off-axis guider option, but now I've given the OTA more thought, as well as recommendations here, I've ditched the idea of using the 10" OTA due to the issues of flexure which I hadn't immediately realised so thanks to those for highlighting it for me. I also read about another issue from time to time where it doesn't take much to reach the maximum capacity of the mount very quickly when you are slowly adding on gear. I haven't weighed my current 10" f5 OTA but based on BinTel's 10" f4 imaging OTA (which is 15kg), mine would have to easily exceed that weight. So rather than sacrificing a complete 10" Dob setup just to gain a 'free' OTA, I'll leave the Dob complete and sell it off (look out in the IIS Classifieds for a bargain soon).
I'll look at a couple of alternatives such as either the 8" f4 BinTel carbon fibre astrograph, or travel down the refractor path with an ED80? any more thoughts on which way to go with the OTA? Newt or a smaller 80mm refractor?
Good suggestion Jay. With the actual camera I'm going to revert to my trusty (almost new) 450D to start off with and progress to a more expensive camera down the track.
28-06-2012, 09:01 PM
Hi Stephen - earlier in the year I was in exactly the same situation as you. I had a dob (200mm bintel f6 in this case) but was keen to get into imaging.
I too went with the NEQ6, and decided in the end to leave the dob as a visual scope and get a dedicated imaging scope - a GSO 200mm f4 imaging newtonian together with a Baader MPCC. Half the weight nearly of the 250mm, and a shorter focal length to make guiding easier. For guiding i'm using a LP 80mm f6 refractor and a QHY5 from Theo (gama electronics) as recommended by the friendly folks here on IIS. Also using a wide dovetail plate top and bottom, with the guide scope screwed directly to the top dovetail bar to maximise stiffness.
For the imaging camera - im using a second hand 400D which I have since modified to remove the internal UV/IR and anti-alias filters, and have fitted instead an Astronomik EOS-Clip L filter from Bintel. I run the camera tethered to the laptop, so the images download directly via the Backyard EOS software (about $20 i think). Finally i have a Bahtinov mask for focusing the whole setup, and am using the EQ6 direct cable so that I can control the mount from my laptop via the free EQMOD software.
I've also had a lot of fun recently using just a regular manual focus camera lens rather than through the telescope, so with the DSLR/scope/lens combo there's lot you can do.
That sounds like a good combo too! F/4 would be notorious for perfect collimation, but imaging time would be significantly less than say f/7.5. Stephen, I was also going to say you can pick up cheap modded 400D here on IIS. That would be a really good way to start too without comitting to a cooled CCD (Not to mention filter wheels if you go Mono). I know Poita will be selling his QHY8 soon and for a great price, maybe email him and see what he says.
Anywhos heres the panorama I was talking about. Sorry for the poor quality, but it's a 105MP stitch of 3 images ;) As much as I hate Melbourne's weather, I do love the clear skies it gives up once in a while!
28-06-2012, 09:50 PM
agree that collimation is a real PITA. I'm looking at getting the suite of catseye tools as the orion laser collimator is just too hit and miss.
After the simplicity of the 400D and camera lens setup on the EQ6 i can really see the appeal of a refractor for the beginner. However (once you have collimation sorted) the light collection area of the newtonian is still a winner for me, especially with a one-shot-colour camera like the 400D.
01-07-2012, 11:48 AM
Hi Richard, I agree. You're setup sounds good mate and it looks like a very similar,if not the same path I'm traveling down. Following up on the suggestion of the QHY5, I've looked at Theo's website and I'm impressed with the range he has.
How does this sound... NEQ6, Orion ED80/DLSR combo (imaging), small 50mm guidescope/QHY5 (guiding). I guess that when/if I decide to upgrade to a 200 or 250mm astrograph, the ED80 can become the guidescope and I retain the QHY5 to throw on the back of it :thumbsup:
Re: collimation, I've had Newts for years so, I'm comfortable with collimation, so the f4 doesn't scare me that much :eyepop:
Hi Meru, great images there, thanks for sharing. If I can achieve that in the early days I'll be very happy. you're setup sounds just as good!
I've been reading up on PHD and from all accounts it seems like a very intuitive application to operate. I found this article about it: http://www.stark-labs.com/craig/articles/assets/AutoGuiding%20Craig%20Stark.pdf .
One thing that will really put me off is our backyard. Being split level, I will need a more permanent setup at some stage otherwise walking to and from the house every night will be a pain. I've been doing a recci of the backyard for a nice position for a roll-off roof shed. I've got good wide skies but an awkward block for erecting a shed. It may need some thought.
Good discussion here, thanks peeps. Looks like a visit to BinTel in the coming weeks is in order.
01-07-2012, 12:17 PM
You'll probably also want dew heaters, and some way to run your imaging set up remotely (indoors) - especially in winter.
A light box will be a good idea too as it make processing much easier - have a look in the classifieds section (there's a guy on here who builds quality light boxes).
01-07-2012, 12:37 PM
most refractors will require a field flattener when used for imaging. Make sure you factor that into your shopping list.
(whereas reflectors require a coma corrector, so a corrector of some kind is required either way)
01-07-2012, 12:53 PM
Hi Dave, I've have a set of dew heaters and a controller so all good there, but thanks for the reminder. I must get them out and see it they still work. I've only used them once this year. My office is directly adjacent to where I may put a roll-off roof shed in the future, so it will be very convenient if I do go remote.
No worries Stephen, and sounds pretty good to me! Let us know how you get along!
22-07-2012, 08:14 PM
Just jumping is as a relative newbie to the imaging scene and I have found many threads and topics on forums around the internet dealing with this very issue - the first serious imaging setup. The elements are all very similar: EQ5/6, small 80 or 100mm refractor, small el-cheapo finderscope for a guidescope, a guide camera and a DSLR to start off!
Thanks for the great conversation here, it's provided me with a good understanding of the first decent setup!
Look forward to reading more as you progress.
vBulletin® v3.8.7, Copyright ©2000-2013, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.