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Old 02-07-2007, 09:56 PM
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Nathan25
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Getting started with an SLR: Any help?

I'm looking at getting an SLR for general purpose usage, but would also like it to be appropriate for some astrophotography. I've never had a go at astrophotography, so any advice on the camera and starting out in general would be much appreciated!

Nathan
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Old 03-07-2007, 06:24 AM
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iceman (Mike)
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Hi Nathan

I assume you mean Digital SLR?

There are a number of DSLR's that are suitable for both terrestrial and astrophotography use - the main ones are the Canon or Nikon's. Typical examples are the Canon 300D/350D/400D/20D/30D/5D or the Nikon D40/D80/D200.

There's more people on IIS that use Canon's, but that's not to say the Nikon's aren't any good. I think the Canon's are generally cheaper to buy and have a good reputation for low noise and high sensitivity. The lenses also appear to be a little cheaper.

What's your budget?
How much will you use it for terrestrial vs astro? Will you be using it on your C8?

The lenses you get are also important. The stock lenses that come with the camera are adequate, but have their flaws, specifically regarding CA (chromatic abberation - purple fringing around bright objects), coma and spherical distortion in the corners.

The best way to start for astrophotography is to mount the camera on top of the telescope in "pgigyback" mode, so you use the scope to simply track (or guiding later on, for the more advanced), and the camera+lens sit on top, taking a relatively widefield view of the stars.
This lets you get used to the settings on the camera, and the focal length is shorter which places less demands on your tracking accuracy. It also gets you used to processing astrophotography images, which is a challenge and an artform itself.
As you get more experience, you can get a focal reducer and use the C8 in prime focus mode (with your DSLR), where the camera replaces the eyepiece in the focuser. Here, the focal length is longer so you're getting more magnification on those deep space objects. It places more demands on your tracking accuracy, and so you'll want to do some guiding using a guidescope and camera.
As an introduction to guiding, most people would put an ED80 (or similar) on top of their C8 - image through the ED80 and guide through the C8. The ED80 is a faster scope, wider field of view, less focal length and therefore less challenging.

All of this is assuming you want to take photos of deep-space objects, not planets. That's a different story requiring different techniques and equipment.

I hope i've helped - keep asking questions!
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Old 03-07-2007, 10:23 AM
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DSLR advice

Hi Iceman,

Very much appreciate the comprehensive reply, very helpful!

A few answers to your questions and a few extra questions from me:

- My budget is around $1500 (although thats what i said when i was looking for a scope...)
- I will probably use the camera equally between astro/terrestrial, but possibly a little biased towards terrestrial photography.
- Yes i'll be using the C8, i doubt i will be upgrading for a few years just yet!

- How would things be different if i was primarily interested in photographing planets? (which i'm not, but i'd like to keep things capable all round if i can)
- Can you tell me more about guidescopes? I'm quite unfamiliar.
- What's involved with processing astrophotography? Software etc etc
- Are there any good general guides to astrophotography out there?

Thanks very much for your help! I only got my C8 six months ago (a graduation present to myself), a very frustrated start in the hobby was made much easier some great and helpful people on the ISS forum. Now i can't get enough!

Nathan
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Old 03-07-2007, 11:29 AM
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ving (David)
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hi nathan
your c8 will do you for quite a while me thinks
if kyou want to do planets most use webcams like the toucam, but there are much better webcams avaliable. a barlow in there will increase your image scale.

for wider file astro pics a slr is better. most here recomend canons as most programs seem to work for canon cameras, but nikon make fine cameras too, i have just purchased a nikon d40 myself... but not specifacally for astro pics. you will probably want to get a focal reducer for the c8 for when you hook up your slr.
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Old 03-07-2007, 07:08 PM
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I personally use Nikon, but I've heard the Canon sensors bring in more light and are more sensitive than the Nikon CCD's, so that might be a plus for you. Lenses are priced around the same for each company besides the high end telephoto's because nobody but NASA buys anything more than a 300 F2.8 VR.

You wont have to worry about edge darkness & vignetting as most of the DSLR's on the market use only the center of the lens anyways.

Go to the store, try them out, see what performs better, which brand you like better as you'll probably use it for things other than astrophotography also.
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Old 04-07-2007, 12:39 PM
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Quote:
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I personally use Nikon
go nikon!
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Old 04-07-2007, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan25 View Post
- How would things be different if i was primarily interested in photographing planets? (which i'm not, but i'd like to keep things capable all round if i can)
The C8 is quite capable of being a planetary imaging scope. You'd need a barlow lens (2x, 3x, 4x, 5x etc) to increase your focal length/image scale, and a webcam. Budget webcams like the ToUcam 900nc are perfect to start with. (max $200)

Quote:
- Can you tell me more about guidescopes? I'm quite unfamiliar.
A guidescope is a 2nd scope, either smaller or bigger, which is uses to help keep the tracking accurate. You align the guidescope on a star, and in it's simplest form, with an illuminated reticle, you keep that star centered by using the hand controller to make minor adjustments if you tracking is not 100% accurate (no mount is 100%).
You can automate things by putting a webcam in the guidescope and feeding the star image to a program which, judging by the direction of star drifting, will send corrections to the mount so that it automatically makes the adjustments for you. You need a mount that is capable of automatic guiding. I don't know if the C8 is.

Quote:
- What's involved with processing astrophotography? Software etc etc
The best all-round software is Photoshop, but it's not cheap. There are other tools such as Iris, Images Plus, Maxim DL, AstroArt and others. There's been a few threads discussing it so go searching and prepare to do some reading

Quote:
- Are there any good general guides to astrophotography out there?
There's a few books out there, search for books + astrophotography on IIS and again there's a few threads discussing people's favourites.


Hope that helps! Good luck!
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