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Dedicated camera or a DSLR?


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I am finally able to get back into the hobby, although my budget is not infinite it still needs railing in, on my last set up I was using my EOS 7D, and it performed well apart from some issues with capture software glitches and I still have such camera, but that is not the dealbreaker by any means.

As prices have skyrocketed on mounts and telescope set-ups, should I wait it out and get a dedicated astrophotography camera and reduce the spend on the scope and mount or carry on with my DSLR and invest the money back into the optical tube and mount? Budget is around £2.5k max this time around.

 

My skies here are a Bortle 4, and I seem to be located in the least light polluted area, apart from sky glow around the horizon I think I should do well from here.

Edited by Cumbrianwolf
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It’s a difficult decision to make. Most of the gear is manufactured in China and they have difficulties in production due to their zero Covid rules hence long lead times caused by occasional local lockdowns. That said however there are some great OTAs available now at reasonable prices in the UK. For instance the Altair gear is fantastic, as is William Optics. Skywatcher gear is getting dearer especially for the higher end stuff.

 

For mounts they occasionally come available new from many astro suppliers when they come in from China on a communal container.

Again most cameras are from the far east and are not getting any cheaper. If it was me I would set out a budget for the three main items. Then decide what you want to capture.

A 70mm or 60mm aperture is great for deep sky. Going even wider then 50mm is brilliant.

If you want to go more zoomed in then 80mm to 120mm OTAs can start to get expensive and break the budget. Also more heftier mounts are needed again with more expense.

 

Don’t forget to budget for a field flattener too as there is nothing worse than egg shaped stars at the edge of an image.

I chose the William Optics Redcat 51 scope as it is designed for wide field deep sky shots and is a quintuplet. It has the field flattener built in! It is very light weight and will go on a smaller capacity mount. Altair also make a 60mm EDF Doublet with a field flattener for another £95 https://www.altairastro.com/altair-60-edf-doublet-refractor-telescope-v3-450-p.asp which gets great reviews. Again this will go onto a smaller capacity mount.

 

The other thing to bear in mind is the camera itself. Some of them are not suited for all scope apertures. Have a look at Astronomy Tools website in the CCD Suitability section https://astronomy.tools/calculators/ccd_suitability

This will give you a suitable sensor size for a particular aperture. Don’t take any notice of “CCD” in the title as CMOS sensors give exactly the same mathematical results in the calculations.

 

I would only buy from suppliers in the UK as you will get a warranty. Buying from offshore websites is buyer beware.

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Thanks for the food for thought, I am still weighing up my options on the subject, but time is getting closer when I come to the final choices. Lighter is almost going to the first choice as the large Newtonian and EQ6 with three counterweights was not much fun to move in and out of the house, plus this place is smaller, so the footprint needs to match that. Deep sky will be my thing as the planets although nice do not pique my interest as much. 

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For deep sky imaging I prefer a dedicated camera over DSLR every time, Tec cooling and dedicated control interface via camera driver/ascom simplifies what is a complex process especially if using computer sequencing.   There are quite a few good used Astro cameras available on for-sale forums at great price savings. 

 

 

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4 hours ago, MartinS said:

For deep sky imaging I prefer a dedicated camera over DSLR every time, Tec cooling and dedicated control interface via camera driver/ascom simplifies what is a complex process especially if using computer sequencing.   There are quite a few good used Astro cameras available on for-sale forums at great price savings. 

 

 

What should I be looking for in a camera as my mind is confused over what is available on the market and the more I watch and learn the more questions get thrown up, I am not that up on the use of a dedicated astro camera, whereas I can get my head around a DSLR and of course I am good with the software side of it so no worries on learning that.

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I was always advised to buy the best mount you can afford and I think it good advice. It's literally the foundation of all your observing.  If you already have a DSLR then perhaps you can use that to gain experience and hone your techniques before you splash out on a dedicated camera. I started out with a Canon 450D and used that for a few seasons before buying a ZWO dedicated camera. The ZWO is better but I learnt the skills with the canon. Also starting with the canon will give you some know-how to better decide which dedicated camera to buy when you do. The choice is confusing.

 

There's another reason for using what you've got first and I hesitate to say it but you might call it the "push your budget" effect. Delay the dedicated camera till next year. Use your resources to buy the best mount and scope you can afford this year. Then next year you might be able to drum up a bit more cash to get the dedicated camera you really want. Just an idea. 

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Have you considered using a Samyang 135 mm lens with your Canon DSLR ?  I have one adapted for my ATIK cooled CCD camera, and it gives sharp star images right to the edges of the sensor (12.5 x 10 mm), admittedly somewhat smaller than your DSLR sensor.  Its good for wide field shots of extended nebulosity, and has two advantages over a lot of telescopes.

 

Its considerably cheaper.  And its considerably faster at f2.0 The latter is important in the UK where observing opportunities are often limited by the weather.  The same object can be imaged nine times faster than with a f6.0 scope.  Thats a one hour exposure instead of all night ! In my opinion the focal ratio is a major consideration when doing astrophotography.

 

 I agree with the advice about getting a good mount first - I've had the same Vixen GPDX throughout my decades of doing astrophotography, and its still does everything I ask of it.

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On 11/15/2022 at 4:41 PM, mechanoid said:

Have you considered using a Samyang 135 mm lens with your Canon DSLR ?  I have one adapted for my ATIK cooled CCD camera, and it gives sharp star images right to the edges of the sensor (12.5 x 10 mm), admittedly somewhat smaller than your DSLR sensor.  Its good for wide field shots of extended nebulosity, and has two advantages over a lot of telescopes.

 

Its considerably cheaper.  And its considerably faster at f2.0 The latter is important in the UK where observing opportunities are often limited by the weather.  The same object can be imaged nine times faster than with a f6.0 scope.  Thats a one hour exposure instead of all night ! In my opinion the focal ratio is a major consideration when doing astrophotography.

 

 I agree with the advice about getting a good mount first - I've had the same Vixen GPDX throughout my decades of doing astrophotography, and its still does everything I ask of it.

Hmm, never thought of going camera and lens only, prior to that I was using this set up and although it did the work it was a pain in the rear due to the weight of the kit, having limited time these days I think smaller and lighter is the way and a camera and a good lens may be just the job with a tracking mount as most my shots will be wide angle deep sky:

IMG20220116154849 (2).jpg

M42.jpg

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I am interested in shrinking the size/weight of my mobile AP setup and have been following the evolution of lightweight harmonic drive mounts. Previous disappointment with new gen mounts has made me more cautious so I am waiting on reports of real life experience before plunging.  One of these lightweight mounts may serve your needs.

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