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Old 21-12-2023, 12:27 PM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Travel Telescope for Astrophotography

Any suggestions for the best lightweight travel telescope for astrophotography, attaching a DLSR (Nikon Z) on a star-tracker like the star adventurer or ioptron?

I am moving overseas next year but in a bortle 9 region, so I want to get a scope that is portable and lightweight for close range celestial objects like Andromeda while hiking or camping out in other parts of Europe.

I have a few in mind but reviews have been conflicting.

Thanks!
Sara
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Old 22-12-2023, 08:16 AM
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OzEclipse (Joe Cali)
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Hi Sara,

A Star Adventurer can’t track even a short lightweight refractor, unless you want one of the little 50mm f4 models. If that's the case and if you’re going to be travelling with it, perhaps something that’s multipurpose like a good fast 135mm or 200mm lens. The physical weight, dimensions of a short telephoto are better suited to a Star Adventurer than say a 70mm-80mm class refractor.

You can capture Andromeda and the Pinwheel galaxies successfully with lenses of 135mm and up.

In the attachments:-

1. Milky Way Core captured with a 135mm f2. I wanted to test the unguided tracking ability of the Star Adventurer lens so I stopped the 135mm down to f5.6 to extend the exposure time to 4 mins.

2. Andromeda captured with a 300mm lens but on an equatorial mounting.

3. I have also captured Andromeda with a 135mm. The Samyang 135mm f2 ED vignettes at f2 but this can be controlled with flats or stopping down to f2.8 gets rid of the worst of the vignetting. You could also consider a good quality 135mm f2.8 rather than f2 to save some weight.

The Andromeda shots were taken from southern NSW with Andromeda low on the horizon. You should be able to do considerably better from the northern hemisphere.

Joe
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Last edited by OzEclipse; 22-12-2023 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 22-12-2023, 08:27 AM
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chrisp9au (Chris)
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Sara, have a good look at the results folk are getting with the ZWO Seestar S50.
Try https://www.facebook.com/groups/seestar/
or just Google Seestar S50
Can fit in a back pack for travelling.
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Old 22-12-2023, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
Any suggestions for the best lightweight travel telescope for astrophotography, attaching a DLSR (Nikon Z) on a star-tracker like the star adventurer or ioptron?
Hi Sara,

If you want it really really light, then perhaps a suitable lens. Which Z do you have, fullframe or APSc? Also do you have a Nikon FTZ adapter? That would help me with a suggestion for you.

For a satisfying frame filling image of Andromeda you need a focal length of about 400mm on Fullframe and 300mm on APSc. You can also get by with less focal length if weight is ultra-critical and go for something around 200mm and/or crop like crazy.

Best
JA

Last edited by JA; 22-12-2023 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 23-12-2023, 09:04 PM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Originally Posted by OzEclipse View Post
Hi Sara,

A Star Adventurer can’t track even a short lightweight refractor, unless you want one of the little 50mm f4 models. If that's the case and if you’re going to be travelling with it, perhaps something that’s multipurpose like a good fast 135mm or 200mm lens. The physical weight, dimensions of a short telephoto are better suited to a Star Adventurer than say a 70mm-80mm class refractor.

You can capture Andromeda and the Pinwheel galaxies successfully with lenses of 135mm and up.

In the attachments:-

1. Milky Way Core captured with a 135mm f2. I wanted to test the unguided tracking ability of the Star Adventurer lens so I stopped the 135mm down to f5.6 to extend the exposure time to 4 mins.

2. Andromeda captured with a 300mm lens but on an equatorial mounting.

3. I have also captured Andromeda with a 135mm. The Samyang 135mm f2 ED vignettes at f2 but this can be controlled with flats or stopping down to f2.8 gets rid of the worst of the vignetting. You could also consider a good quality 135mm f2.8 rather than f2 to save some weight.

The Andromeda shots were taken from southern NSW with Andromeda low on the horizon. You should be able to do considerably better from the northern hemisphere.

Joe
Thanks Joe - I have been tossing between the Redcat 51 or the Evostar 72ED, that latter of which has focal length of 420mm. I own a Z7ii full frame, which doesn't help.

I have previously owned a WO Zenithstar 61 that worked, but it was tricky I think because it hit the payload weight. No guiding. I could also only get about 30 seconds, maybe a minute with any luck before the declination drift starts to make things hard. I don't particularly like the star adventurer except for wide-field nightscapes, but I want something portable and lightweight for pack carry/travel.

Others I have thought of include Astro-tech AT60ED.

Otherwise, I agree, a 135mm lens should be sufficient, and while I have an FTZ, I think I would prefer to get a Nikon Z lens to avoid any problems, which means $$$ and so maybe, in terms of affordability, I could go for the Nikkor Z 24-120mm F4, but there are no specific reviews (that I have found) for the purpose of widefield DS.

A lightweight telescope seems the logical approach in terms of saving money for the purpose of doing close range DS objects.

Great photos btw
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Old 23-12-2023, 09:07 PM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Originally Posted by JA View Post
Hi Sara,

If you want it really really light, then perhaps a suitable lens. Which Z do you have, fullframe or APSc? Also do you have a Nikon FTZ adapter? That would help me with a suggestion for you.

For a satisfying frame filling image of Andromeda you need a focal length of about 400mm on Fullframe and 300mm on APSc. You can also get by with less focal length if weight is ultra-critical and go for something around 200mm and/or crop like crazy.

Best
JA
Thanks for your response JA. I have a Nikon Z7ii full frame and an FTZ adapter, but I am unsure whether the adapter would be a good idea with such an intended focal length. My preference would be a telescope, which could actually be cheaper (see previous response to Joe). Still happy to hear your suggestions.
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Old 23-12-2023, 09:12 PM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Originally Posted by chrisp9au View Post
Sara, have a good look at the results folk are getting with the ZWO Seestar S50.
Try https://www.facebook.com/groups/seestar/
or just Google Seestar S50
Can fit in a back pack for travelling.
I feel weird being this way, but I kind of think that the Seestar is cheating. I want to take photos myself because I feel the joy learning the process from scratch. I recall not knowing what polar alignment was, and now I do it independently. Its a process, a lengthy one, and a very slow journey for me because I am so busy, but I feel satisfied with myself taking dodgy photos and making mistakes, as long as I make them

Otherwise, definitely nice to use the Seestar!
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Old 24-12-2023, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
Thanks for your response JA. I have a Nikon Z7ii full frame and an FTZ adapter, but I am unsure whether the adapter would be a good idea with such an intended focal length. My preference would be a telescope, which could actually be cheaper (see previous response to Joe). Still happy to hear your suggestions.
I wouldn't worry about the FTZ adapter, I find it very sturdily made and it has a tripod mount which in conjunction with the camera 1/4" tripod mount or the lens 1/4" tripod mount can be tied together to form a very rigid system, if you really want to.

Anyway as far as recommendations based on your Andromeda desires go, they would need an ~400mm focal length for a frame filling image, but Nikkors at 400mm, only really are the 400mm f/2.8 telephotos, which are too heavy at around 5kg and $$$, even for the older manual focus versions.

The 300mm options are much more open you could go for a 300mm f/2.8 older manual focus lens which is around 3kg and anywhere between ~$1K to $2Kused or Multi $$$ for the new models , that's possibly a bit too large also, unless you're a speed demon and must have the f/2.8.

I believe the real pick for a lighter weight "travel" system, lighter than the 1.8ish kg Redcat 51 or Skywatcher 72ED and much faster, would be the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor. It weighs in at around 1.4kg, has a 75mm aperture and can be had for around $700 on the used market (or ~$1500 New)

It is a VERY sharp lens and would give either the Redcat51 or Skywatcher 72ED a good run for their money.

Of course if you want a wider field and are happy to crop, then at say 135mm you could go for the hellaciously sharp Sigma Art 135mm f/1.8 at ~$1K used ($2k new), which is sharper than the other usual 135mm contender, the Samyang 135mm f/2.


Good luck with your choices

and PS.... Get the Nikkor 300mm f/4 AF-S, it's lighter, faster and well priced.

Best
JA

Last edited by JA; 24-12-2023 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 24-12-2023, 09:58 AM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Originally Posted by JA View Post

and PS.... Get the Nikkor 300mm f/4 AF-S, it's lighter, faster and well priced.

Best
JA
Thanks JA for your detailed feedback. The Nikkor 300mm f/4 AFS is a good option because I can combine it with wildlife photography, but I question the difference between the AF-S and the updated PF version, which is half the weight at about 750grams.

This review by Mansurov does not show much distinction, however notes that the PF version is sharper in the centre which, when considering cropping (as I am using a full-frame) would probably be the better option because i'll have a sharper image. With any lens, the capabilities change when doing deep space objects, and it seems like the PF would be the better option, but that it unfortunately becomes the more expensive option. The cost is far higher with the optically better VR2.

I just find it questionable whether the 300mm is necessarily suitable for astro imaging, but may be better if I combine it with daytime photography, which likely will not happen all that often as I prefer night photography and landscape.

Something like AT60ED with a reducer can reach that 300mm range and is very cheap and lightweight, but again, leaning to the RedCat simply because people vouch for it and it can also be used for wildlife photography too. The synthetic fluoride glass helps with FF images that are nice and flat.

Happy to get into more details on this if you feel I am leaning in the wrong direction with my POV.
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Old 24-12-2023, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
Thanks JA for your detailed feedback. The Nikkor 300mm f/4 AFS is a good option because I can combine it with wildlife photography, but I question the difference between the AF-S and the updated PF version, which is half the weight at about 750grams.

This review by Mansurov does not show much distinction, however notes that the PF version is sharper in the centre which, when considering cropping (as I am using a full-frame) would probably be the better option because i'll have a sharper image.
Yes i'd read that review: wide open at f/4 the PF is ~11% sharper in the centre of the frame, but the AF-S is ~17% (!!) sharper mid-frame and ~23% (!!!) sharper in the corners. At f/5.6 the results are even better with the AF-S. The sharpness across the entire frame is FAR more even with the AF-S than the PF lens, indicating much better field flatness with the AF-S lens. But sure the PF lens is ~700 g lighter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
With any lens, the capabilities change when doing deep space objects, and it seems like the PF would be the better option, but that it unfortunately becomes the more expensive option. The cost is far higher with the optically better VR2.
I can't say that I agree, for the reason of flatness of field etc, as stated above, but if you want to try one let me know. It did see it objectively tested against the Redcat51 and where the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S was found better, not the least of reasons for its aperture i would say; 75mm v 51mm and also a superior resultant image, higher sharpness and better star roundness/less eccentricity than the Redcat 51.... is lighter and can be had used for ~$700.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
I just find it questionable whether the 300mm is necessarily suitable for astro imaging, but may be better if I combine it with daytime photography, which likely will not happen all that often as I prefer night photography and landscape.

Something like AT60ED with a reducer can reach that 300mm range and is very cheap and lightweight, but again, leaning to the RedCat simply because people vouch for it and it can also be used for wildlife photography too. The synthetic fluoride glass helps with FF images that are nice and flat.

Happy to get into more details on this if you feel I am leaning in the wrong direction with my POV.
Whether something around 300mm for The Nikkor or the 250mm of the Redcat51, is enough for you is only a question you can answer, but with the tiny pixels, by camera standards, of the Z7ii, you can easily crop on a good sharp lens. I initially chosethe 300mm as something of a compromise in performance and weight for your travel scope desires on targets like Andromeda.

As stated, the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S is sharper, gathers more light (116% more) and is objectively (on test) sharper and much less distorted than the Redcat 51 in terms of star ovality/roundness. It is also a little more up-close than the 250mm focal length of the Redcat 51, that you're considering. For $700, in astro terms, it's for free.

Best
JA

Last edited by JA; 24-12-2023 at 09:28 PM.
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  #11  
Old 24-12-2023, 08:21 PM
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Hi Sara,

Have you considered the Star Adventurer GTi (the new-ish one with GoTo) as a mount? Add guiding to the mix and you'd have a capable system that's still quite portable. (Yeah, you need to add in a laptop or something like the ASIAir to drive it.)

Cheers,
V.
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Old 25-12-2023, 09:57 AM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Originally Posted by AstroViking View Post
Hi Sara,

Have you considered the Star Adventurer GTi (the new-ish one with GoTo) as a mount? Add guiding to the mix and you'd have a capable system that's still quite portable. (Yeah, you need to add in a laptop or something like the ASIAir to drive it.)

Cheers,
V.
Thanks for that suggestion and I have, but I'm trying to see if I can pack carry my gear. I am heading to the Dolomites in July and will be hiking for a few days on my own hut to hut, and so I would need to carry my gear and clothes etc.

A person should only carry 20% of their body weight, and unfortunately I am small and weigh 56kg, so I can carry about 11kg. I do both nightscapes and timelapses at the same time, so if I carry a Z7ii and a Z6ii with NikonZ 20mm x2 + 50mm, plus 2 travel tripods, it comes to about 6kg. This could increase an extra 2kg if I take the star adventurer plus counterweights. Then clothes and all that, it is possible, but likely tough.

I could swap the star adventurer for an MSM rotator and maybe take a GTI that I could use driving to specific locations instead, as it can hold a great weight, but honestly, if I can get a good lens/telescope that could carry on a star adventurer, then why not? I only want to try taking some celestial objects in the northern hemisphere while I am there.
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Old 25-12-2023, 10:09 AM
Aurorae (Sara)
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As stated, the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S is sharper, gathers more light (116% more) and is objectively (on test) sharper and much less distorted than the Redcat 51 in terms of star ovality/roundness. It is also a little more up-close than the 250mm focal length of the Redcat 51, that you're considering. For $700, in astro terms, it's for free.
You are doing really well convincing me, but I just wanted to get clarification again on your thoughts on the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm F4 D lens or something like the Nikon AF Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED IF?

It is one stop of light difference, which for deep space could be better, and it does have a drop-in filter option, with would be good for H-a. The weight difference is the f4 is 1.5kg and the f2.8 is 2.5kg, but the latter still possible to fit within the parameters of the 5kg payload (which increases with counterweights) and the Z7ii, which is light.

Also, do you have any examples of DS objects taken with the 300mm?

Thanks again
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Old 25-12-2023, 10:26 AM
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You are doing really well convincing me, but I just wanted to get clarification again on your thoughts on the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm F4 D lens or something like the Nikon AF Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED IF?

It is one stop of light difference, which for deep space could be better, and it does have a drop-in filter option, with would be good for H-a. The weight difference is the f4 is 1.5kg and the f2.8 is 2.5kg, but the latter still possible to fit within the parameters of the 5kg payload (which increases with counterweights) and the Z7ii, which is light.

Also, do you have any examples of DS objects taken with the 300mm?

Thanks again
I have both the 300s you mention but not yet tried them for astro, as I'm setting them up for a lighter weight Star Adverturer GTI mount for which I'm modifying a tripod. There are a few examples of some very intense/highly populated star fields on Astrobin which should give you an example or two.

Even though I have the 300mm f/2.8 as well as the f/4, I much prefer the ease of use/weight offered by the 300mm f/4 AF-S, especially since I was considering using two of the 300mm f/4 lenses tracked on one light weight mount. One day I'll test all my lenses against each other and rationlise my hoard.

Best
JA

PS: Yes the 300mm 2.8 AF also has a 39mm filter slot that you can modify for astro use. I bought some extra nikon 39mm filters for this use and have de-glassed a couple to fit alternative astro type filters, but some machining/fettling is required. I had some images somewhere where i was going to write a thread on it. If I find them I may do that.
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Old 25-12-2023, 10:48 AM
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Hi Sara,

Ah. I must have missed that in one of your earlier posts. This requirement makes a huge difference!

Cheers,
V.

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I am heading to the Dolomites in July and will be hiking for a few days on my own hut to hut, and so I would need to carry my gear and clothes etc.
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Old 25-12-2023, 11:28 AM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Hi Sara,

Ah. I must have missed that in one of your earlier posts. This requirement makes a huge difference!

Cheers,
V.
I actually didn't mention the details, so not your fault. Thanks nonetheless, it is on the agenda.
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Old 25-12-2023, 11:35 AM
Aurorae (Sara)
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Even though I have the 300mm f/2.8 as well as the f/4, I much prefer the ease of use/weight offered by the 300mm f/4 AF-S, especially since I was considering using two of the 300mm f/4 lenses tracked on one light weight mount. One day I'll test all my lenses against each other and rationlise my hoard.
I look forward to seeing/reading the test results, and more details on the filter slot for astro use too. It is hard to find detailed analysis of lens for astro use, and certainly for the Nikon Z range, so I think it would be really valued.

I may rent the above-mentioned lens and try it with my HEQ5 pro to see if it does a good enough job visually before buying, and also try it on the star adventurer just to see if it will work, though I agree that the extra 1kg in the f2.8 may make a difference when travelling. I am still an unbeliever of the FTZ at that range, so we'll see and I will keep you posted in the new year. I am heading out to the Grampians with friends in Jan so I can try it out then.
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Old 25-12-2023, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Aurorae View Post
I look forward to seeing/reading the test results, and more details on the filter slot for astro use too. It is hard to find detailed analysis of lens for astro use, and certainly for the Nikon Z range, so I think it would be really valued.

I may rent the above-mentioned lens and try it with my HEQ5 pro to see if it does a good enough job visually before buying, and also try it on the star adventurer just to see if it will work, though I agree that the extra 1kg in the f2.8 may make a difference when travelling. I am still an unbeliever of the FTZ at that range, so we'll see and I will keep you posted in the new year. I am heading out to the Grampians with friends in Jan so I can try it out then.
Just one thing, the 300mm f/2.8 AF IF-ED you linked to on ebay is a screw drive AF lens and requires a Nikon F-mount body to use the autofocus, in case you were intending to use it for non-astro use. You can of course use it as fully manual focus lens, which you almost certainly would, for Astro use on your Z-mount body.

Best
JA
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Old 26-12-2023, 01:11 PM
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I look forward to seeing/reading the test results, and more details on the filter slot for astro use too. It is hard to find detailed analysis of lens for astro use, and certainly for the Nikon Z range, so I think it would be really valued.

I may rent the above-mentioned lens and try it with my HEQ5 pro to see if it does a good enough job visually before buying, and also try it on the star adventurer just to see if it will work, though I agree that the extra 1kg in the f2.8 may make a difference when travelling. I am still an unbeliever of the FTZ at that range, so we'll see and I will keep you posted in the new year. I am heading out to the Grampians with friends in Jan so I can try it out then.
Don't worry aboud it.....

Here's a Nikkor 1000mm f/11 Reflex mounted to a Nikon Z50, via Nikon FTZ adapter. It's OK / quite rigid on its own, but clamped together with a TS-Optics Lens/camera/Mount adapter it's like a ROCK. The greyish thing on the bottom is my rough and ready DIY Vixen dovetail.

Best
JA
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Old 26-06-2024, 09:37 AM
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Light weight setup for astrophotography

I have the following setup:
Fujifilm xt4, Fujifilm zoom 100-300mm, innorell RT90c, iOptron head. I guess you can use a lighter tripod.
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