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Old 26-09-2012, 08:21 AM
eMeR (Rimas)
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Question Astrophotography setup. Need advises and recommendations

Hello,

I am new to this forum, so let me introduce myself shortly.
My name is Rimas and I am from Lithuania (Europe). Since school I was interested in astronomy. Almost three years ago (actually that happened on 09 29) I was able to buy my first telescope. Keeping in mind, that I need to take it out of the town for a better view, I have chosen CPC800. I have lots of great time using my telescope since that. I was using it for visual observing. About a year ago I started to take interest in astrophotography. All those fantastic photos drives me crazy… What a views… That is amazing to know that all these beauties are there, what you see as few stars with naked eye. So.. I have tried to make some photos/videos with my scope. Of course all I can do is a few seconds length videos or photos of moon or planets. But I want be able to take photos of DSO. The moment I understand, that my CPC with alt-az mount is a no-go for long exposures photos, I have started to save for my next setup. The one which should allow me to dive into astrophotography. By the way, CPC is still a great scope for visual.

I was reading a lot about setups, looking what people are using under their photo descriptions (sure I know, that people and experience makes photos, not an expensive equipment by itself). I have decided to get best what I can afford in following 6 months, because I want that setup should be reliable and could last for a few years at least (longer is better).

I have started to make my virtual (at the moment) setup:

Mount:
All are saying that the mount is core of astro-photo system. At the beginning I was thinking about SW NEQ6. But after lots of reading I decided to make a huge step ahead and now I am willing to get AP900GTO. All who has this mount are saying what a wonderful piece of technic is this mount. I am almost sure, that I can't go wrong with it. Well… the price is really high, but according to the reviews, this mount is worth every penny. By the way - portability should be in mind, because I still need to take it with me to go away from lights.

Scope:
All the praises go to Takahashi FSQ-106ED. Short focal length, flat sharp view, … Well - its a legend among astrophotographers. And it is really portable.

Camera:
This is something very new to me. I had played a little bit with a DSLR only. I have never used CCD before. Ever.
By reading reviews and looking at photos, I started to think, that SBIG STF-8300M Pro Plus (with 8 places filters wheel, 8 filters, OAG, ST-i guider) bundle would be great for me. At least - all comes from one maker so there should be no compatibility issues. Overall SBIG is a well known manufacturer and reviews of STF8300 are not bad. The only thing I am not sure about this bundle is ST-i version - mono or color. It would be fantastic if color version would be sensitive enough to use as a guider and use it for moon and planets videos. But I do not want to loose guiding sensitivity. So looks like I should forget color version of ST-i. Right or not? And overall - is ST-i OK as a guider or should I think about another one?

Tripod:
The same moment I was started too look about available tripods I was amazed about reviews of Rob Miller's ones. Because I need lightweight but rigid tripod, I almost stopped to look at others. I think TRI36M would be perfect for 900GTO. The problem I am in the Europe. I have asked Rob about shipping cost. I was shocked… $644!!!!!!! Meanwhile shipping to the Poland (which is nearby) would be $148. And the distance between capitals is only ~500km (~312miles). I will be forced too look for a friend of friends in Poland or something. $650 for shipping.. thats a nonsense. For 9.5kg (21 lbs). Overall I am jealous of all that available stuff in the USA at relative low prices.. Do you know how much 900GTO costs in Europe? 9170 EUROS! At todays exchange rate that is about $11830… Thats the price of 1600GTO in USA

Accessories:
Here I will need most of your help. Because I am making this setup by currently not having any of its parts… For example - what adapters or something is required to attach STF-8300 with filters wheel to a FSQ106? And how FSQ should be mounted on the 900GTO? Will the TKA36420 (Tube holder) be OK for that or I need another thing? I am asking about those things, because I wouldn't be very happy to miss something, and one day when (I hope so) I will get all parts no be able to use, because an adapter is required.

Definitely I will need RoboFocus or similar focuser. Maybe some dew protection. What else? What about those miles of wires between mount/guider/camera and computer? Is it USB everything nowadays or still those USB-COM converters are required?

That my thoughts. Any suggestions, corrections etc are welcome.

Regards,

P.S. As I understand, 900GTO can be used as a standalone (no computer required) mount for visual observing? I like my CPC for its ability to look quickly here and there using GoTo system.

R.
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Old 26-09-2012, 09:57 AM
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Hi and welome,

The 900gto , fsq106 and rob miller tripod would be a brilliant setup.

I have paramount mx, miller tripod and FSQ 106…and sbig stf pro package. Great combo.

Suggests look into a mount hub pro from hitek astro for cabling and robofocus control all from one device.

I will look whenever home what adapters you need to mount theater. Also depends on what faceplate you put on the OAG 8300. I suggest the STL faceplate for the FSQ. In which case you will need the STL fieldstein adaptor to one to the FSQ
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Old 26-09-2012, 10:23 AM
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Rimas,

I have most of the gear you are talking about: AP900 mount, Tri36M tripod, FSQ-106ED and a few different cameras including a Starlight Xpress H-18 (KAF8300 mono sensor). It's all great stuff and I'm very happy with my setup. I don't have a permanent observatory, so it's all portable use.

Camera: the KAF8300 sensor is a good match to the FSQ. KAI11000 and KAF16803 are really great too but more expensive. I can't comment on the ST-i. I use a Starlight Xpress Lodestar which works well but requires calibration frames in Maxim for best results.

Accessories: I'm using an Atlas focuser with Astro-Physics 2.7" thread on the camera side so I can't offer advice on adapters for your setup. The Atlas is a great upgrade for accurate focusing. Some people have had problems with tilt on the FSQ focuser with heavy cameras.

To mount the scope I use Socal Astro rings attached to dovetail plates top and bottom. Unfortunately, I don't think these are currently available: http://www.socalastro.com/images/rings/index.htm
A Tak tube holder with one of the BT Technologies dovetail plates mated to an Astro-Physics DOVELM162 saddle would work too.

And, yes, you can use the AP900 standalone without a computer.

Cheers,
Rick.
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Old 26-09-2012, 02:48 PM
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All good choices.

I would suggest the SBIG STL11 instead of the STF8300 though.

STL11 is a particularly good match to the FSQ and especially if you use the FSQ106ED reducer. It has self guiding so less need for MMOAG and guide camera unless you want to do narrowband imaging. No need for a separate filter wheel and its a nice compact lightweight proven performer.

Also there is bound to be some for sale on Astromart cheap as people sell theirs and upgrade to a 16803 chipped camera. I think overall it would be cheaper than STF8300, filter wheel and guider.

16803 though is the ultimate camera for FSQ but it is expensive. I would suggest the FLI Microline 16803 if you did go that route as it is the lightest and some FSQ owners have had a lot of trouble with focuser flex. It cools within 3 or 4C of the more expensive and heavier Proline.

I would get the STi over Lodestar as it is cleaner, has a built in shutter which is important for autodarks as it guides to get rid of any hot pixels that the software can mistake for a guide star and cause erratic guiding.

I don't think Lodestar or STi would really be that great for planetary but I could be wrong. Get the mono as it would be more sensitive than colour and autoguiders need to be sensitive to make sure you can find a guide star.

Greg.
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Old 27-09-2012, 03:32 AM
eMeR (Rimas)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cventer View Post
Suggests look into a mount hub pro from hitek astro for cabling and robofocus control all from one device.
Thanks - great advice.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cventer View Post
I will look whenever home what adapters you need to mount theater.
Would be great.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cventer View Post
Also depends on what faceplate you put on the OAG 8300. I suggest the STL faceplate for the FSQ. In which case you will need the STL fieldstein adaptor to one to the FSQ
Have no idea about those - which one is better. Will need lots of reading.
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Old 27-09-2012, 04:04 AM
eMeR (Rimas)
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Hi Rick,
Quote:
Originally Posted by RickS View Post
I have most of the gear<...> I don't have a permanent observatory, so it's all portable use.
How do you feel about its portability? Isn't a big headache every time you need to take it out and setup every time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickS View Post
Camera: the KAF8300 sensor is a good match to the FSQ. KAI11000 and KAF16803 are really great too but more expensive.
Yes - both great. At least by looking at images made with them. But they are to expensive to me at the moment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickS View Post
Some people have had problems with tilt on the FSQ focuser with heavy cameras.
What would be heavy camera? STF-8300 weights 0.8kg, filter wheel also 0.8kg. + ST-i + some adapters. That should not be too much for focuser.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickS View Post
To mount the scope I use Socal Astro rings attached to dovetail plates top and bottom. Unfortunately, I don't think these are currently available: http://www.socalastro.com/images/rings/index.htm
A Tak tube holder with one of the BT Technologies dovetail plates mated to an Astro-Physics DOVELM162 saddle would work too.
Gonna check this out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickS View Post
And, yes, you can use the AP900 standalone without a computer.
Thats great!

Thank you for answer.
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Old 27-09-2012, 04:20 AM
eMeR (Rimas)
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gregbradley,

will keep used STL11 in mind. But I'd like to get a new one to have a warranty.
16803 is definitely to expensive for me at the moment.

Thanks.
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Old 27-09-2012, 08:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eMeR View Post
How do you feel about its portability? Isn't a big headache every time you need to take it out and setup every time?
It would be nice to have a permanent setup but I can live with it for now. It's not too much trouble to toss everything in the car and drive out into the country for a night or two each new moon. At home I leave the tripod and mount set up and throw a cover over it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eMeR View Post
What would be heavy camera? STF-8300 weights 0.8kg, filter wheel also 0.8kg. + ST-i + some adapters. That should not be too much for focuser.
Some of the 16803 cameras plus filter wheel weigh a total of a few Kgs. You should be OK with the STF-8300.

Cheers,
Rick.
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Old 27-09-2012, 05:43 PM
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STF 8300 has no problems on FSQ focuser. I use mine with takometer rotator and have no focuser flex.
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Old 27-09-2012, 05:56 PM
eMeR (Rimas)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cventer View Post
STF 8300 has no problems on FSQ focuser. I use mine with takometer rotator and have no focuser flex.
Your FSQ is 106ED or 106EDXIII? However, looks like EDXIII is not available in the Europe officially.

Last edited by eMeR; 27-09-2012 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 27-09-2012, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eMeR View Post
Your FSQ is 106ED or 106EDXIII? However, looks like EDXIII is not available in the Europe officially.
Its the 106EDX
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Old 27-09-2012, 08:43 PM
eMeR (Rimas)
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Its the 106EDX
The main difference from ED is only CAA stuff, or focuser is different by itself?
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Old 27-09-2012, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eMeR View Post
The main difference from ED is only CAA stuff, or focuser is different by itself?
Im not 100% sure. I think they have same focuser. Difference is the Captains wheel is fixed and it comes with the large 4" rotators. With chip size on 8300 its not going to phase any of the FSQ models.
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