Newbie's Starting out in Astrophotography - WHAT to BUY?

Here is the place to talk about all those equipment(Telescope, Mounts, Eyepieces, etc...) you have. Not sure which scope/eyepiece is best for you? Trash it out here!
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Newbie's Starting out in Astrophotography - WHAT to BUY?

Post by chancy_sg »

Wanted to put my thoughts on this often raised question - eh, Newbie: what to buy ha? Apart from Tak lah?

So for newbies (notice small cap 'n'... :P ), I have this ONE KEY point:
BUY the best MOUNT/TRACKER you can afford. This will go far in your quest for perfect stars and detailed DSO imagery.
Put the horse in front of the cart - there is no point buying that Milvus 55mm perfect lens if you plan to use a cheapo mount. Better spend that $$$ on the mount will get you stars more perfect than the Zeiss on a wobbly mount. The MOUNT - not scope/lens/camera is where the BIGGEST BANG for $$$ comes from.

If you already have the basic gear like tripod, gear head, ball head with a standard camer+lens, then just get a GOOD tracker to start. You can shoot up to 2-3min subs and get very satisfying results, which will whet your appetitie for more heavy duty stuff, and at the same time hone and understand the needed skillset for DEEP SKY work.

There is a wide range of trackers, but I personally feel it is very much a 'what you pay is what you get' approach as high quality engineering work does not come cheap. I personally am not a fan of 'barndoor' style as they tend to have limited hours of exposure per cycle and resetting may affect your framing.

Mid range trackers from the polarie/Skyadventurer class (under SGD1000) are good for wide field astrolandscapes up to maybe 35-50mm to the Unitec SWAT/Teegul SP class ( SGD1000 and more) up to 200mm. Recently a Korean maker has developed a harmonic drive goto mini-mount (SGD5000 and more) too! I have not personally tried every tracker but getting a good one will go far. Do your reseach well and you will find one suitable for your needs.

The next step is debatable, but personally I feel it is better to get a good image processing software and learn to use it effectively. It is maybe a better value to spend a few $ to learn about how to extract the best from the data you have captured and as the learning curve is steep, it is better to get started and learn more here. Programs are varied, but Photoshop with some astro-related modules as addons, PixInsight, Astropixel Processor, ImagesPlus etc are some of the more popular ones. Sign up for a trial if possible to get a feel.

As you progress, you may find you want to SERIOUSLY level up and then the choices will expand to low (CEM/ZEQ25, EM11 etc - under 10KG), middle (Mach1, MyT, EM200 etc 10-20KG) and heavy weight (EM400, AP1100GTO, ME2 etc) classes of mount. These are some of the options, usually people buy 1, at most 2 (from different weight classes) and stick with them for a long time, so do your DUE DILIGENCE carefully.

Next is to consider either telescope or camera lens. The key difference is telescopes are designed to be at their best at infinity focus, whereas lenses have to be all rounders. Other factors like aperture, focal length (hence field of view) are important to consider too, so it depends on what you like to image. As such lenses are more probe to aberrations as they are not designed for infinity best performance and there is some give and take for that flexibility of focus.

As for cameras, well again, try to start with what ever you are using. Most modern sensors are quite good, and the basic techniques are the same. If you MUST get a cooled camera, then it is a sure sign that you have joined as another member of the darkside AP junkie club...What to buy at this level is another topic, not exactly a Newbies' 101 beyond this thread to discuss.

So to summarise - 1) tracker, then 2) image processing software, before really you step across the Schwarzchild point of no return............. 3)scope/cooled camera/mount. Good luck!!!
Twinkle twinkle little stars,
How I wonder what you are.

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