Author Topic: Beginner's Equipment Questions  (Read 524 times)

fewithciten

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Beginner's Equipment Questions
« on: December 24, 2017, 01:02:54 AM »
Hi Cloudy Nights Pros!

I've been interested in imaging the night sky for a while.  I've been hesitant to start a new hobby since I know from reading posts in this forum of how expensive it could get and honestly, I do not know whether I will have enough time to invest or even if I will like it as much as I think I will.

However, with two young boys interested in astronomy, I decided it was time to get started.  So I made a decision to buy an AVX mount and use my existing DSLR equipment to check the proverbial waters before making larger investments in equipment and time.

In terms of equipment, I have a Canon 7d Mark ii and a variety of lenses from Rokinon 14mm into a Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens to use.  I also recently bought a lightly-used Celestron AVX mount.

I realize however that I want a few extra items to get started.

<strong>Power Supply.  </strong> I want something to power the mount and possibly my notebook.  Is the Celestron power tank sufficient to power or are there any other better/more powerful options?

<strong>Mounting equipment.  </strong> I am uncertain how to mount my DSLR and autoguider+range onto the AVX.  Can somebody recommend a set-up and possibly share images of their setup to help?

<strong>Autoguider.  </strong> I really don't have an autoguider/scope yet, but I am thinking about purchasing one, rather used.  I am thinking about that the Orion SSAG using the 50mm range, but would love to know whether there are other reliable/ low cost or better options?
<strong>Polemaster.  </strong> Formerly, I've owned the iOptron Skytracker.  It worked well, but I learned I need a lot of practice with precisely establishing polar orientation.  Is this a necessary purchase, or will the AVX two-star setup and autoguider suffice?

Is there anything else that I need to consider?
That is it for now.  My boys and I will appreciate the advice.

Thanks.

Scott



Mike Meckler

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2017, 09:03:47 AM »
<p>Welcome to Cloudy Nights. </p>I picture in my backyard, run an extension cord.  Individuals who picture portably can better help with power.

Mounting the camera.  2 approaches.

Affordable.  No autoguider.  You could see how long an exposure that the AVX will allow you to do at different focal lengths.  Quality control on that bracket is lean, could be you got a good one, could be awful.

https://www.amazon.c...e/dp/B0000XMYFQ

Here's an unguided picture at 200mm and F4, using a bracket maybe not as good as a good AVX.  74 90 minute exposures.

http://www.astrobin.com/230259/

Expensive with autoguider.  Generally folks go side by side.  Many possibilities, here is one.

http://www.admaccess..._Series_SBS.htm

More components are probably needed.

The Orion guidescope is OK.  The camera is old and insensitive.  You will fuss with finding guidestars, get frustrated, outgrow it quickly.  The newer camera comes with all the Orion Pro.  Or you could just buy the guidescope and this.  It is basically the same camera as the Guru, well regarded.  I have one.

https://www.amazon.c...l/dp/B00CB2EAS8

You will find that, generally speaking, fixed focal length ("prime") lenses work better for astro.  Zooms tend to be slower (more important than you might think, among other things, rate reduces the requirement to autoguide, and you need to stop down somewhat in any event), also have more aberrations from centre.

Guiding doesn't really fix poor polar alignment.  The AVX system is OK, but takes time and experience.  The $300 Polemaster (have one) will align as well (probably better), with considerably less time and effort.  It practically defines "no-brainer", the laptop direct you through the comparatively short procedure.

You're properly concerned about budget and time for imaging.  Have you ever believed electronically assisted astronomy?  Might be better for the children, more immediate, more clear than accumulating information and processing it afterwards.  Less need for a costly mount.  Quality is less, see that the EAA forum on this website, and elsewhere, for cases.

If you do picture, don't omit the calibration frames; prejudice, apartments, darks.  This is important.

James Runninger

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2017, 04:20:36 AM »
I have an AVX and the Celestron power tank (7amp hr). It has never run down on me, and sometimes imaging I also plug in an inverter and power my laptop running PhD guide. I always use the laptop battery as long as possible first though.

You didn't mention a telescope, but if you have any telescope, you can run the polar alignment routine on the AVX. I have found it to be easy to do and pretty accurate.

Now for a recommendation. You mentioned having several lenses. You can get a dovetail that either has a channel for mounting things, or you can get one that actually has a 1/4 by 20 bolt built in, see the link below. You can use that dovetail to do unguided astrophotography on the AVX. You first have to align with your telescope or a long lens. I have aligned without a telescope using the live view feature on my Canon and a 200mm focal length. It worked fine. There are a lot of good examples on Astrobin with 14mm, 24mm, 50mm and up lenses that could give you some ideas of what you could expect. Here is a dovetail that I use to shoot with my 24mm lens, it would work with 50mm too.
http://www.telescope...rd=dovetail 1/4

I'll leave it to others to help out with mounting autoguiding stuff. You might want to try unguided shots with fast lenses first and learn about that before adding guiding. I have a lot of fun doing unguided shots. Good luck!

Chris Smale

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2017, 05:07:55 PM »
Quote
Welcome to Cloudy Nights. I image in my backyard, run an extension cord. People who image portably can better help with power.

Mounting the camera. 2 approaches.

Cheap. No autoguider. You could see how long an exposure the AVX will let you do at various focal lengths. Quality control on that mount is thin, could be you got a good one, could be bad.

https://www.amazon.c...e/dp/B0000XMYFQ

Here's an unguided image at 200mm and F4, with a mount not as good as a good AVX. 74 90 second exposures.

http://www.astrobin.com/230259/

Expensive with autoguider. Generally people go side by side. Many possibilities, here's one.

http://www.admaccess..._Series_SBS.htm

More parts are likely needed.

The Orion guidescope is OK. The camera is old and insensitive. You'll fuss with finding guidestars, get frustrated, outgrow it fast. The newer better camera comes with the Orion Pro. Or you could just buy the guidescope and this. It's basically the same camera as the Pro, well regarded. I have one.

https://www.amazon.c...l/dp/B00CB2EAS8

You'll find that, in general, fixed focal length ("prime") lenses work better for astro. Zooms tend to be slower (more important than you might think, among other things, speed reduces the need to autoguide, and you need to stop down a bit in any event), and have more aberrations away from center.

Guiding doesn't really fix bad polar alignment. The AVX system is OK, but takes time and expertise. The $300 Polemaster (have one) will align at least as well (probably better), with significantly less time and effort. It practically defines "no-brainer", the laptop leads you through the relatively short process.

You are properly concerned about time and budget for imaging. Have you considered electronically assisted astronomy? Might be better for the kids, more immediate, more understandable than accumulating data and processing it later. Less need for an expensive mount. Quality is also less, see the EAA forum on this site, and elsewhere, for examples.

If you do image, don't omit the calibration frames; bias, flats, darks. This is important.

Thanks for all of your suggestions.

I like the idea of the cheap unguided route. That is probably where I'll begin for the first few weeks while I become acquainted with the mount and polar alignment. I think I'll stick with my primes for a while. Also, I'll be on the lookout for a used polemaster to assist with alignment b/c with my schedule and time constraints I'd rather be imaging than fooling around too long with polar alignment.

In terms of the guidescope, you suggested the ASM 120 imager. For autoguiding, will any 50mm scope do? And, will i need some sort of accessory to pair the sensor to the scope?

As for EAA, I'm on the look out for making backyard observing and imaging more interesting (at least for 1hr) for the kids. I'll have to look into it a little more, but it seems to have its own fans and naysayers.

Thanks again.

Scott

, which may be the route I take for a few weeks while I become familiar with the mount. In all likelihood, I'll eventually want additional gear to refine.

John Fletcher

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2018, 06:00:27 PM »
My battery is a size 24DC marine battery from WalMart. Connection to the battery is a Radio Shack 3 outlet power adapter (2700286) to which I soldered their biggest alligator clips. I run my mount directly from the adapter and my laptop from a 250 watt Samlex inverter plugged into the adapter. After running everything for 8 to 10 hours, it takes my 6 amp charger about as long to recharge the battery.

You can attach your camera directly to the mount using a dovetail. (I made my own from a short piece of 1" thick wood with a 15 degree taper on each edge and a 1/4" clearance hole.) The camera orientation will be horizontal = declination and vertical = right ascension. You could switch the orientation by building an L-shaped adapter.

With a 200 mm lens, your camera's field of view will be slightly bigger than 6° x 4°. That's enough for even the largest deep sky targets. I think you can get away without autoguiding for exposures up to a minute or two. Crank up ISO as needed to move the histogram peak off the left edge.

The Orion SSAG isn't very sensitive. You can do better with Astronomics' 60 mm f/4 photoguide refractor ($140) and QHY 5L-II monochrome camera ($249) from Oceanside Photo &amp; Telescope. Use PHD software.

Polemaster would be a good investment for the long term. However, with only a 200 mm lens, I'm not sure you need it yet.

Backyard EOS camera control software is worth far more than its modest price.

Jason Muse

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2018, 07:34:46 PM »
You want a guidescope identified as a guidescope to make connection to the camera easier. It's a t-thread, you may or may not need an extension tube to reach focus.. The Orion can work (with a good camera), the Astronomics listed above is another good choice. Not a very critical choice, the difference between the old and the new cameras is substantial.

The QHY 5L-II and the ASI 120MM use the same sensor, and, apart from a small size difference, are essentially identical. I've seen a few people have driver issues with the QHY, they may (should?) be resolved by now.

The Polemaster is new and people tend to fall in love. Used ones are likely scarce.

The simple dovetail is so cheap it scarcely makes sense to build your own. Metal is better than more flexible wood, also.

BackyardEOS is indeed a nice program. If you're not autoguiding you can use a simple intervalometer, and put off having to fiddle with a laptop and new software while you learn to image.

Good luck, let us know how it goes. We're always here to help, this book may be interesting and useful. Much more detail than any short post.

https://www.amazon.c...n/dp/148180491X

Jeremy Butler

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2018, 04:26:18 AM »
At the moment I read this as you have the AVX mount and a DSLR, no scope.
What comes next assumes this:
You can initially head out, dark skies are better, and take camera and a photographic tripod. Put DSLR on tropod, use a lens of about 28mm (wide), plug in an intervalometer and get 10 exposures of 20 seconds each, say at ISO 100, and 2 stops back from full aperture. Set the intervalometer to a 5 second delay, a 20 second exposire and a 10 second wait.

The 10 exposures will take 5 minutes. Aim camera at say Cassiopeia or the top end of Cygnus.

Take DSLR home, change intervalometer to 5 exposures, put lens cap on, put DSLR in the fridge close the door and take 5 "darks".

Now you have 10 exposures and 5 darks to load into Deep Sky Stacker and play "Stack the images with".
One aspect that is apparent is you stack the images in DSS save as a TIFF or FITS file then you load this into some more relevant software for processing.

Pick 3 different areas to get exposures of and you do one, and each son does the same to one they pick.

Next is mount the DSLR on the AVX, align that and get it tracking - should do it automatically. Repeat the above with just the DSLR but if aligned and tracking the you should be able to go for 40 to 60 second exposures, again try 10 exposures but extend the Wait time to 40 seconds = the sensor gets warm and should be allowed to cool. Same with fridge go for 5 darks again of the same exposure length and same ISO.

When maddness arrives adn you decide on adding a scope in I suggest you come and ask again as that is when it starts to get more detailed.

The power packs seem to be suspect. We use them until they can drive a mount no more = drained, and draining them damages them. Not sure what to suggest. I use Li batteries or the power out bit in the rear of the car.

That is my suggestion to get familiar with everything, before you move to the next point of confusion. Simply learn the stacking aspect first and wide field DSLR only enables that.

Oh yes, the DSLR is set to manual for everything, Aperture, ISO, Exposure time, Focus.

genssizafa

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2018, 05:26:23 AM »
Quote
Hi Cloudy Nights experts!

I’ve been interested in imaging the night sky for some time. I’ve been hesitant to start a new hobby because I know from reading posts in this forum of how expensive it can get and frankly, I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to spend or even if I’ll like it as much as I think I will.

However, with two young boys interested in astronomy, I decided it was time to get started. So I decided to purchase an AVX mount and use my existing DSLR equipment to test the proverbial waters before making greater investments in time and equipment.

In terms of equipment, I already have a Canon 7d Mark ii and a variety of lenses from Rokinon 14mm to a Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens to use. Also, I recently purchased a lightly-used Celestron AVX mount.
I realize however that I need a few additional items to get started.

Power Supply. I need something to power the mount and potentially my laptop. Is the Celestron power tank sufficient to power both or are there other better/more powerful alternatives?

Can you just run a power cord out to the location? That is best.

Mounting equipment. I’m not sure how to mount my DSLR and autoguider+scope onto the AVX. Can someone recommend a set-up and potentially share pictures of their set-up to help?

Contact Anthony at ADM Accessories. Probably a side by side mount would be best.

Autoguider. I don’t have an autoguider/scope yet, but I’m considering purchasing one, preferably used. I’m considering the Orion SSAG with the 50mm scope, but would like to know if there are other reliable/ low cost or better alternatives?

Already discussed.

Polemaster. Previously, I’ve owned the iOptron Skytracker. It worked well, but I learned I need a lot of practice with precisely setting up polar alignment. Is this a necessary purchase, or will the AVX two-star setup and autoguider suffice?

The two star setup does nothing for polar alignment....two totally different things. The PM is great however SharpCap, which is free, now has a polar routine. Check that out.

Also BackYard EOS is the software to use to run that camera. I use it all the time, when I'm not using SGP.

Justin Lewis

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2018, 05:57:41 AM »
Quote
Quote

Hi Cloudy Nights experts!

I’ve been interested in imaging the night sky for some time. I’ve been hesitant to start a new hobby because I know from reading posts in this forum of how expensive it can get and frankly, I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to spend or even if I’ll like it as much as I think I will.

However, with two young boys interested in astronomy, I decided it was time to get started. So I decided to purchase an AVX mount and use my existing DSLR equipment to test the proverbial waters before making greater investments in time and equipment.

In terms of equipment, I already have a Canon 7d Mark ii and a variety of lenses from Rokinon 14mm to a Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens to use. Also, I recently purchased a lightly-used Celestron AVX mount.
I realize however that I need a few additional items to get started.

Power Supply. I need something to power the mount and potentially my laptop. Is the Celestron power tank sufficient to power both or are there other better/more powerful alternatives?

Can you just run a power cord out to the location? That is best.

Mounting equipment. I’m not sure how to mount my DSLR and autoguider+scope onto the AVX. Can someone recommend a set-up and potentially share pictures of their set-up to help?

Contact Anthony at ADM Accessories. Probably a side by side mount would be best.

Autoguider. I don’t have an autoguider/scope yet, but I’m considering purchasing one, preferably used. I’m considering the Orion SSAG with the 50mm scope, but would like to know if there are other reliable/ low cost or better alternatives?

Already discussed.

Polemaster. Previously, I’ve owned the iOptron Skytracker. It worked well, but I learned I need a lot of practice with precisely setting up polar alignment. Is this a necessary purchase, or will the AVX two-star setup and autoguider suffice?

The two star setup does nothing for polar alignment....two totally different things. The PM is great however SharpCap, which is free, now has a polar routine. Check that out.

Also BackYard EOS is the software to use to run that camera. I use it all the time, when I'm not using SGP.
Finally AP is one half imaging.....then one half post processing. Pixinsight is the software to use but there are others that will suffice in the short term. Also don't expect to see perfect pictures when you are capturing images....yes one can see the wisps of a DSP nebula but it isnt until the multitude of images are processed that the boys will get the ooh-aahs from.


multalumiff

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2018, 04:42:56 PM »
I'll note that with everything you've said, PixInsight, although the "best" is not a good choice for you (specifically) for processing. Too much time to learn, too much time to use.

If you're familiar with Photoshop, that's a good place to go. Many use it exclusively. If not, I like PaintShopPro to start with. Inexpensive, easy to use (although processing your data is never trivial), effective, and conventional so that the knowledge you acquire transfers when you move on.

You'll also need Deep Sky Stacker for stacking, but do not allow it to process your data. Save the stack as a file with "settings embedded but not applied" and import it into your processing program. It will look dismayingly dark, which is correct.

Astrophotography is a complicated business (and PixInsight raises that to a whole other level), which is a major reason why some prefer EAA.

Marquez Faulkner

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2018, 12:33:59 AM »
And if you can't afford software at this juncture, get a copy of The GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)- it's a free program that will allow you to do about 85% of what Photoshop does, and is fairly easy to use.

https://www.gimp.org/

I've been using it forever- since it was the <em class="bbc">General Image Manipulation Program (1997, or so.)

..Joe

Darren Hatch

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2018, 05:14:36 AM »
Quote
I'll note that with everything you've said, PixInsight, although the "best" is not a good choice for you (specifically) for processing. Too much time to learn, too much time to use.

If you're familiar with Photoshop, that's a good place to go. Many use it exclusively. If not, I like PaintShopPro to start with. Inexpensive, easy to use (although processing your data is never trivial), effective, and conventional so that the knowledge you acquire transfers when you move on.

You'll also need Deep Sky Stacker for stacking, but do not allow it to process your data. Save the stack as a file with "settings embedded but not applied" and import it into your processing program. It will look dismayingly dark, which is correct.

Astrophotography is a complicated business (and PixInsight raises that to a whole other level), which is a major reason why some prefer EAA.


Let's see .... I am familiar with and use both photoshop and lightroom for image processing.

While I've used DSS for stacking, it's been hit or miss. Sometimes my images come out correct and other times they come out very pink, even with darks added to the stack. But, that's probably more user error / lack of experience than the program.

vistadussi

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2018, 05:58:05 AM »
Quote
And if you can't afford software at this juncture, get a copy of The GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)- it's a free program that will allow you to do about 85% of what Photoshop does, and is fairly easy to use.

https://www.gimp.org/

I've been using it forever- since it was the General Image Manipulation Program (1997, or so.)

..Joe

Joe,

There are so many software options available for post-processing, autoguiding, aligning, etc, that it gets a bit challenging to track them all.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll take a look at GIMP.

Scott

handvestlazo

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2018, 10:52:49 AM »
Quote
Quote

Quote

Hi Cloudy Nights experts!

I’ve been interested in imaging the night sky for some time. I’ve been hesitant to start a new hobby because I know from reading posts in this forum of how expensive it can get and frankly, I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to spend or even if I’ll like it as much as I think I will.

However, with two young boys interested in astronomy, I decided it was time to get started. So I decided to purchase an AVX mount and use my existing DSLR equipment to test the proverbial waters before making greater investments in time and equipment.

In terms of equipment, I already have a Canon 7d Mark ii and a variety of lenses from Rokinon 14mm to a Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens to use. Also, I recently purchased a lightly-used Celestron AVX mount.
I realize however that I need a few additional items to get started.

Power Supply. I need something to power the mount and potentially my laptop. Is the Celestron power tank sufficient to power both or are there other better/more powerful alternatives?

Can you just run a power cord out to the location? That is best.

Mounting equipment. I’m not sure how to mount my DSLR and autoguider+scope onto the AVX. Can someone recommend a set-up and potentially share pictures of their set-up to help?

Contact Anthony at ADM Accessories. Probably a side by side mount would be best.

Autoguider. I don’t have an autoguider/scope yet, but I’m considering purchasing one, preferably used. I’m considering the Orion SSAG with the 50mm scope, but would like to know if there are other reliable/ low cost or better alternatives?

Already discussed.

Polemaster. Previously, I’ve owned the iOptron Skytracker. It worked well, but I learned I need a lot of practice with precisely setting up polar alignment. Is this a necessary purchase, or will the AVX two-star setup and autoguider suffice?

The two star setup does nothing for polar alignment....two totally different things. The PM is great however SharpCap, which is free, now has a polar routine. Check that out.

Also BackYard EOS is the software to use to run that camera. I use it all the time, when I'm not using SGP.
Finally AP is one half imaging.....then one half post processing. Pixinsight is the software to use but there are others that will suffice in the short term. Also don't expect to see perfect pictures when you are capturing images....yes one can see the wisps of a DSP nebula but it isnt until the multitude of images are processed that the boys will get the ooh-aahs from.

Phil,

I appreciate your suggestions. Thank you.

In terms of power, while in the backyard, I plan on running power from the house, but I don't think i have a long enough cord to run it up to the Sierras.

I like the choice of ADM for camera and autoguider. It seems solid and straightforward.

As for polar alignment, I think that's where I'll initially have some issues. I definitely have to spend some time learning the mount and working on developing my own protocol for set-up, balancing and polar alignment.

Scott

faubloginac

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Re: Beginner's Equipment Questions
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2018, 05:57:21 PM »
Quote
At the moment I read this as you have the AVX mount and a DSLR, no scope.
What comes next assumes this:
You can initially head out, dark skies are better, and take camera and a photographic tripod. Put DSLR on tropod, use a lens of about 28mm (wide), plug in an intervalometer and get 10 exposures of 20 seconds each, say at ISO 100, and 2 stops back from full aperture. Set the intervalometer to a 5 second delay, a 20 second exposire and a 10 second wait.

The 10 exposures will take 5 minutes. Aim camera at say Cassiopeia or the top end of Cygnus.

Take DSLR home, change intervalometer to 5 exposures, put lens cap on, put DSLR in the fridge close the door and take 5 "darks".

Now you have 10 exposures and 5 darks to load into Deep Sky Stacker and play "Stack the images with".
One aspect that is apparent is you stack the images in DSS save as a TIFF or FITS file then you load this into some more relevant software for processing.

Pick 3 different areas to get exposures of and you do one, and each son does the same to one they pick.

Next is mount the DSLR on the AVX, align that and get it tracking - should do it automatically. Repeat the above with just the DSLR but if aligned and tracking the you should be able to go for 40 to 60 second exposures, again try 10 exposures but extend the Wait time to 40 seconds = the sensor gets warm and should be allowed to cool. Same with fridge go for 5 darks again of the same exposure length and same ISO.

When maddness arrives adn you decide on adding a scope in I suggest you come and ask again as that is when it starts to get more detailed.

The power packs seem to be suspect. We use them until they can drive a mount no more = drained, and draining them damages them. Not sure what to suggest. I use Li batteries or the power out bit in the rear of the car.

That is my suggestion to get familiar with everything, before you move to the next point of confusion. Simply learn the stacking aspect first and wide field DSLR only enables that.

Oh yes, the DSLR is set to manual for everything, Aperture, ISO, Exposure time, Focus.


SG6,

Keep it simple, which is what I'm inferring from your comments... I like it!

Part of the reason I posed my questions was to figure out a slow, yet steady way into AP and observations and image processing without spending a whole lot (relative term) of money upfront.

I've already spent some time imaging with a DSLR only and using a skytracker and doing some processing in DSS. I think now is the time to take a step up.

One one of the many things I need to learn is how to accurately polar align my scope. I know that there are plenty of self-help videos on youtube, but I'll need to do it perhaps numerous times before it become accurate enough for the images to be usable.

In terms of using Li Batteries, which ones do you use. And do you use one to power your mount and another your laptop and accessories. What is that set-up like?

Thanks again for your help.

Scott