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Old 05-07-2020, 09:03 AM
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Crater101 (Warren)
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Astrophotography Beginner - Where to Start?

Hi all;


I'm a beginner starting the journey into astrophotography. While photography itself has been a long time passion, this is a new area for me.


I'm looking for advice not only on the best equipment for a beginner, but also adapters for cameras. I have a couple of full frame DSLR's and digital compacts (mostly Canon) and am wondering what's the best gear to begin.



I've been fascinated by the moon for many years, and would like to be able to get good images of that, but some images of the night skies and the planets are also on my list.


I've been looking at the Skywatcher Startravel series of telescopes, and also the Celestron Inspire series to begin with, but I'll welcome any advice folks can give me.


Cheers!
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:02 AM
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xa-coupe (Jeff)
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I'm a COVID beginner myself... I've been wanting to do this for decades and never found the time ... then one day I was told to stay at home for a couple of months and voila!


Advice ... read, ask questions..read again and ask again, then buy once and cry once. This place is invaluable.



My first bit of advice... get the best mount you can afford.. I used an EQ3 ( or 2 ..can't remember right now ) and it was .. okay. I saved my shekels and recently got a NEQ6 Pro .. which has been a challenge to work out but I am getting there. That mount should do anything I ever want for astro photography, except be portable as it is a heavy beast. It will journey in the car but should I want to walk more than 20m from the car I will need something else.


Polar alignment is key ... and celestial south is NOT magnetic south.. I didn't find that one out for a while and it drove me nuts. 11 and a bit degrees east of magnetic south in Melbourne.



Equipment.. everyone has an opinion on what's best so I will leave that to the more experienced... but if you're a Canon man with a 70-200 don't discount it, it's been producing my best nebula shots so far, though it's a little small for moon shots IMO.


That's all I have.. enjoy!


Jeff
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:21 AM
Imme (Jon)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crater101 View Post
Hi all;


I'm a beginner starting the journey into astrophotography. While photography itself has been a long time passion, this is a new area for me.


I'm looking for advice not only on the best equipment for a beginner, but also adapters for cameras. I have a couple of full frame DSLR's and digital compacts (mostly Canon) and am wondering what's the best gear to begin.



I've been fascinated by the moon for many years, and would like to be able to get good images of that, but some images of the night skies and the planets are also on my list.


I've been looking at the Skywatcher Startravel series of telescopes, and also the Celestron Inspire series to begin with, but I'll welcome any advice folks can give me.


Cheers!
As a start why not try a nano-tracker.

It is basically a small eq mount which will allow you to use your existing cameras and lens.
There are many great works on here done by people with simple systems like a nanotracker. One such person is Mickoid who will sometimes throw in a great pic or two he has done on his portable setup....many others also if you have a look through the galleries.
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:58 AM
Startrek (Martin)
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Warren
Firstly Welcome to IIS
If you want to start with just a DSLR and a small tracking mount like a nano tracker and the like, that’s fantastic
But if you want to go up a notch to next level and use your DSLR in a telescope ( Prime Focus ) I can help you if you choose “Skywatcher mounts” ( EQ5 , HEQ5, EQ6 etc... ) and small Newtonian telescopes 6” f5 or 6”f6 or a small refractor
80mm etc..
I started as a beginner nearly 4 years ago with a HEQ5 mount and a Bintel 6” f6 Newtonian reflector telescope and still use them ( even though I have upgraded since
I have step by step written procedures for -
Finding true south
Setting up your tripod
Setting up your mount head
Setting your home position
Balancing you telescope
Polar alignment using the Synscan handcontroller ( PA routine without a view of the South Celestial Pole )
Drift alignment
Computer control of your telescope using EQMOD, StellariumScope and Stellarium
And more .....

I’m sure other members are willing to help you on your journey as well
There are many brands , types of telescopes , mounts , systems and software to use in Astronomy and Astrophotography and mine is “just one of them” but I’m happy to share if you decide to go down that path
Take your time and read a lot ( some good advice ) the Universe is going no where in a hurry

Cheers for now
Enjoy your journey
Clear skies

Martin
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:53 AM
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As a start why not try a nano-tracker.

It is basically a small eq mount which will allow you to use your existing cameras and lens.

Never thought of that. Thanks!
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:53 AM
jahnpahwa (JP)
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I've been looking at the Skywatcher Startravel series of telescopes, and also the Celestron Inspire series to begin with, but I'll welcome any advice folks can give me.
Cheers!

G'day and welcome!


I'm also a beginner and have been having fun trying as many set ups as possible. I started out with the idea that I'd need a big scope to see/image anything worthwhile and thats certainly not the case.



A good tool for you might be stellarium, i have used it to understand the field of view of scope/sensor combinations before each purchase and its really a great try before you buy sort of thing. At the moment we don't have the luxury of meeting up with astro clubs to look through a bunch of different scopes, and i think this is the next best thing. Its free


In terms of the startravel series, once you accept that you're buying an acromat and will be dealing with colour correction limitations, you'll probably enjoy one they seem to be good value for money. I have the 102mm f5 version and my daughter likes to use it when i am setting up other rigs in the backyard. She took this image of carina nebula with it, i think its 55 x 1.6s at iso 6400 on a canon aps-c sensor and a static mount. She stacked it and processed it with free software and is really proud of it. I'm sure you could do much better but its an example of what can be done with a simple set up
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:58 AM
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Crater101 (Warren)
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Quote:
Firstly Welcome to IIS
If you want to start with just a DSLR and a small tracking mount like a nano tracker and the like, that’s fantastic
But if you want to go up a notch to next level and use your DSLR in a telescope ( Prime Focus ) I can help you if you choose “Skywatcher mounts” ( EQ5 , HEQ5, EQ6 etc... ) and small Newtonian telescopes 6” f5 or 6”f6 or a small refractor
80mm etc..

Thank you. Cameras don't faze me, and I'm just looking to start with something basic until I get the hang of what I'm doing. I'll take all the help I can get.


The Skywatcher series seemed to be suited to someone like myself who was just starting out. The various mounts, etc., are still new to me.


Cheers!
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Old 05-07-2020, 12:01 PM
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Crater101 (Warren)
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Originally Posted by jahnpahwa View Post
G'day and welcome!


I'm also a beginner and have been having fun trying as many set ups as possible. I started out with the idea that I'd need a big scope to see/image anything worthwhile and thats certainly not the case.



A good tool for you might be stellarium, i have used it to understand the field of view of scope/sensor combinations before each purchase and its really a great try before you buy sort of thing.

Thanks very much! I'll look into that. I have a steep learning curve in front of me.



Tell your daughter she's done very nicely.
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Old 05-07-2020, 12:01 PM
raymo
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Nano Tracker and Canon 600D with 50mm lens.
raymo
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Old 05-07-2020, 12:03 PM
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Thanks raymo, that' gives me an idea of what I could aim for. Much appreciated.
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  #11  
Old 05-07-2020, 02:14 PM
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Welcome from me Warren.
The nano is appealing but I suggest a HEQ 5 first or if you feel you will be in for the long haul a eq 6 ...the mount is the main consideration so get a s good as you can afford and realise you choice of scope depends on the mount you select.... a nano will be too small if you go for much past your camera lens...and I expect although it will be heaps of fun you may find wanting a scope sooner than you think.
And if you don't like it the resale price is pretty good so you won't do all your money.
The little HEQ 5 you can run your current cameras and get very good results.then having got a feel for things and got your mount under control you can add a scope after you have run out of things to do with your various lens.you will hear folk talk about auto guiding but you can get away unguided for a long time..I bought my auto guide set up over 12 months ago but have yet to use it most times..you can get a minute exposure unguided and in fact all my images are only exposures in that region..this is due to firstly not getting good polar alignment and opting to take short exposures to get results..as to telescopes a 6 inch reflector is great but a 8 inch is not that much more money ( go f5 to perhaps have something less demanding than an f4 ) or for more money go for an 80mm triplet refractor, the 80mm on the HEQ 5 produces excellent results but I have had good results with an 8 inch Newtonian on the HEQ 5 which really surprised me how good is the little HEQ 5.
What you can do is get Deep Sky Stacker a free program that stacks multiple images and start right away...with your camera and tripod ..although the tripod and camera is static with small focal length lens and taking many short exposures you will be blown away with say a Milky Way wide field. You can look up "the five hundred rule" to determine exposure times but just have a go via experiment but say 50 exposures at 1 second and a high ISO will have you in the game.
You could start with your longest focal length lens on the Moon , take about 50 at whatever exposure produces no blow out and stack them in again free software..Registax. there is another but I can't recall it's name...by doing this you can get a feel for stacking and processing...if you have Photoshop great if not get Gimp which is free and capable of decent processing...so grab your tripod and camera and post a result by tomorrow..you can do it or at least have some questions.
Stacking images of the Moon will produce a result that will suffer enlargement so you may surprise yourself with what you can achieve tonight.
It will only take a few minutes to capture enough subs to stack...watch your focus go manual and just dont expect the infinity will get you there.
Also I can suggest an easy way to find the Celestial South pole..point your camera in the general direction and take a long exposure such that you can work out the center of those star trails..the center is the Celestial South Pole..you can start on that next dark and stars trail photos are neat in their own right..Google and see what's out there.
Good luck.
Alex

Last edited by xelasnave; 05-07-2020 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 05-07-2020, 02:20 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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Some M8 Lagoon images I captured 3 weeks ago in Sydney ( Bortle 8 light polluted skies ) with my Canon 600D ( no filters ) and 6” f6 Newtonian reflector telescope

6” f6 Telescope cost me $299
HEQ5 mount cost me $1250
Canon 600D ( free ) was my wife’s old camera she never used much so I borrowed it for Astrophotography, it’s mine now , oh and it’s stock not modded
Canon T ring adapter $50
Baader coma corrector $290
Laptop for capture $900
Cables $120
Software
Capture software BYEOS cost me $70
Stacking Software Deep Sky Stacker (free)
Goto and tracking software EQMOD, StellariumScope and Stellarium ( All free )
Post processing software Startools $120
Processing computer ( free ) existing home PC

Just to give you a rough idea of my cost to capture the attached images

Cheers
Martin
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Old 05-07-2020, 02:25 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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Forgot my guiding set up ( to allow long exposures )
Guide scope $300
Mounting bar $130
Guide camera $250
Cable $45
PHD2 guiding software ( free )

Cheers
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Old 05-07-2020, 02:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Startrek View Post
Warren
Some M8 Lagoon images I captured 3 weeks ago in Sydney ( Bortle 8 light polluted skies ) with my Canon 600D ( no filters ) and 6” f6 Newtonian reflector telescope

6” f6 Telescope cost me $299
HEQ5 mount cost me $1250
Canon 600D ( free ) was my wife’s old camera she never used much so I borrowed it for Astrophotography, it’s mine now , oh and it’s stock not modded
Canon T ring adapter $50
Baader coma corrector $290
Laptop for capture $900
Cables $120
Software
Capture software BYEOS cost me $70
Stacking Software Deep Sky Stacker (free)
Goto and tracking software EQMOD, StellariumScope and Stellarium ( All free )
Post processing software Startools $120
Processing computer ( free ) existing home PC

Just to give you a rough idea of my cost to capture the attached images

Cheers
Martin
Hey Martin sure that there is not a "1" in front of that 6 inch.
I am sure I commented before but great images.
Alex
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Old 05-07-2020, 03:00 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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Thanks Alex
My prices were when I progressively bought the gear over 6 months about 3 years ago.
Bintel price on the 6” f6 newt today is $399 , still cheap for a good quality newt
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Old 06-07-2020, 12:07 PM
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Xelasnave, Startrek;


Folks, thanks very much for that good advice and overall information (as well as some great examples for a bit of photographic inspiration).


I've got a bit to think about, but please keep the advice coming. Everyone has been fantastically helpful and it's much appreciated.
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Old 06-07-2020, 04:38 PM
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Xelasnave, Startrek;


Folks, thanks very much for that good advice and overall information (as well as some great examples for a bit of photographic inspiration).


I've got a bit to think about, but please keep the advice coming. Everyone has been fantastically helpful and it's much appreciated.
Concentrate at this stage on working out where the Celestial South Pole is...everything turns on it...hey where is your first Moon shot?
Alex
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Old 07-07-2020, 03:29 PM
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Concentrate at this stage on working out where the Celestial South Pole is...everything turns on it...hey where is your first Moon shot?
Alex

Funny you should mention that...I'm in the process of fine-tuning a shot of the Blood Moon I took a while ago to post. Won't be long...
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Old 08-07-2020, 04:06 PM
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OK, a shot taken in 2014 of the "Blood Moon".


This was taken with no specialised astrophotography equipment at all, and the equipment used was


Canon 5DMkII
70-200mm f2.8L lens with 1.4x teleconverter
remote release
Velbon Sherpa tripod


The image was at ISO1600, f8 and 0.5s exposure.


This is when I first started to think about astrophotography. Well aware that it's not the best image in this genre, but critique is invited.
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Old 08-07-2020, 06:19 PM
raymo
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Hi C101, when taking single exposure lunar images with a DSLR it is wise to
use the highest shutter speed possible, as mirror slap and shutter vibration
can slightly affect the sharpness of the image. As there is no depth of field to
worry about, and most lens aberrations are in the outer portion of the image
where there is nothing, there is nothing to be gained by using f/8. From
memory I used ISO 1000 and around 1/3200th sec at whatever aperture
gave the correct exposure, around f/3.5 or f/4 I think.
Pretty good image though, I've seen much worse.
raymo

P.S. The best images are obtained by using video and stacking the best frames.
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