Based on my past experience, I now always order at least one extra counter weight or an extension for the CW-shaft. Often the S&H is lower when combined with the mount and it also eliminates frustration when you add some accessory and suddenly can't balance your mount + telescope + camera + accessories.
12V power to the mount : In most (but not all) cases, the delivery includes a AC-adapter + cable and often also a 12V cigarette lighter adapter. For your first experiments (at home), the AC-adapter plus some 30ft AC-extension cord is all you may need.
Hooking up the mount to your car's battery is a risky proposition -- especially if you are alone away from busy roads. Draining the battery that starts your car never is a good idea -- if you're lucky you quickly find a friend with jumper cables. Also, car batteries can provide immense amount of current in case of a short and that can destroy equipment unless you add a protective fuse. I have several suggestions on how setup your own 12V power supply : /stargazer95050/630825
The glass -- to get started, a good (triplet) refractor is IMO the best choice, even if you crave a big reflector. The larger magnification, collimation procedures, much narrower FOV & heavier weight all require more experience (and stronger mount etc) until you get good results. A refractor is more user friendly and with 700...900mm focal length provides a very noticeable increase in magnification over your SLR lenses.-- read /stargazer95050/748795
For example, the Explore Scientific 102mm f/7 ED Triplet (714mm) appears to be a good deal @ $1500. There are more triplets in that price range e.g. the Orion EON 110mm ED f/6.0 (660mm focal length).
Refractors are getting considerably more expensive as the focal-length & aperture increases and 900mm focal length & 120....130mm aperture seems to be the upper limit for affordable enthusiasts scopes (< $3000, similar to good f/2.8 Nikkor lenses.)
Naturally, you can spend a whole lot more on a telescope with similar specs -- just like a Leica vs Nikon vs Tamron or Sigma lens. There are quality differences but you have to decide, if those are worth a few thousand dollars more.
There are less expensive (doublet instead of triplet) options costing $1000 or less -- if you want to use your telescope for photography, buying higher quality from the start saves you money in the long run because doublets have visual & color errors. They try their best to reduce the effect, you likely you will upgrade. (just as with SLR lenses, to the keen eye, there are differences.)
PS : As you shop for your telescope, look what mounting rings & rails are included. Similar, the vendors use different feet to attach finder-scopes -- making it more difficult or expensive to re-use items.
PSS : And carbon-fiber tubes seem to have backfired -- those tubes weigh nearly as much but the natural insulation causes thermal imbalances and air-current and those have a negative impact on the result.
the (LOSMANDY-style) RAIL : You need some mechanic to attach the telescope to the mount and two standards have evolved and mounts like the iEQ45 support both. One is a narrower "Vixen-style" dove-tail. If you want to mount heavier lenses, a wider "Losmandy D-style rail" is the better choice : Losmandy-dovetail-universal-plate. In the past, I had ordered rails from ADM at a similar price but they lack that flexible pattern. Geoptik & Telescope-express offer some unique options but the dollar exchange rate (plus S&H) make them quite expensive.
UPDATE : the ZEQ25 only supports Vixen rails and some telescopes come with Vixen rails by default -- great for you. From the mechanical view, I find the D-style superior, especially when you use heavy lenses. I have equipped all my OTAs with the same type of "D"-rails -- that comes at a price and some extra weight, while it also brings more flexibility /stargazer95050/32924839. For a "starter kit", a ZEQ25 + light-weight Vixen rail & scope is nothing to frown upon. When you upgrade your mount, be sure to choose a dual-width dovetail saddle capable of supporting Vixen- & Losmandy-D rails.
FINDERSCOPE (plus accessories) : I started with a $100 Orion 9x50mm but the rubber ring to hold the front of that scope's tube wasn't stable enough and I had to adjust it every time I touched it. Therefore, later I added a pair of rings with screws ($50, Stellarvue). My DIY combo still cheaper than the Stellarvue scope and it has some advantages : /stargazer95050/19790563 THIS gives me a much wider range of adjustments !!
A more expensive 60mm finderscope : www.stellarvue.com/f60m2.html -- less DIY, inter-changeable 1.25" EPs, fine-focus, fasters (f/3.75) lens. Still requires extra adjustable rings ($50 extra). It may also be suitable as a guidescope, the Orion is not. That whole Stellavue package adds up to ~ $250.
An alternative I have now added is the 70mm Multi-use finder" -- you can use it with a camera for guiding & as well as with visual eye-pieces : www.ipernity.com/doc/stargazer95050/37284232
From 2" telescope tube to Nikon / Canon bayonet : There are some adapters made as one piece, I prefer that for improved stability -- can't find that link. You can use a 2-piece solution : a T-ring (simple thread) to SLR adapter (bayonet) and add to this a 2" nosepiece with the matching T-thread.
optional Light-pollution filters : Chances are, you live in or close to a city and all those street lights, car lots, stadiums & suburban homes emit light -- and that is reflected back at you by the atmosphere. You can see the effect as orange glow in the sky, even when you are dozens of miles away from any town. In theory, you can vastly reduce that by filtering out those very narrow bands of light associated with the most common forms of streetlights. In practice, these filters aren't as narrow as you wish and they also dampen overall light throughput. And a quality Light Pollution Suppression (LPS) Filter comes with a price tag between $150...$200 or higher.
Nothing beats really dark sky and after a long time of hesitation, I've added a 1.25" LPS filter -- no miracle cure but it improves contrast by filtering out some light pollution. The LPS is no replacement for long drives to dark sky sites. It can help your imaging in suburbia (you still need more post-processing & longer exposure times). Is it worth the $150 ?? -- IMO that depends on how often you can save time & gas and image from your backyard instead of a more remote location.
Other filters : As a beginner, you won't need those with one exception. SOLAR FILTERS Many filters are aimed at advanced astronomers. Other filters, especially variable POL filters or ND-filters, are for visual observers to reduce the brightness of the moon.
Solar / ERF Filters (don't confuse with solar Ha / H-alpha filters) : "Don't look directly at the sun" is a common warning. Solar -- energy reduction -- filters are designed to enable you to look directly at the sun with your eyes or camera by eliminating harmful UV & IR rays and massively reducing bright light (13...16 f-stops !!). You may have seen them as foil in the eclipse observation "glasses". Be very careful and remember to also add a similar filter to your finder scope : search/photo?w=315163&q=ERF
Attaching your dSLR to the mount : Just because you have the intention to use a telescope doesn't make your other (SLR)-lenses obsolete. The mount + SLR + wide-angle lenses complement the telescope. For widefield views without startrails, use one of your lenses and let the EQ-mount eliminate the field rotation. $20 for the small adapter you see here : /stargazer95050/32907293.
You do not need to attach your tripod head to an EQ-mount -- the mount can point at any location you like. The caveat is, you may see tilted landscape in the foreground -- and that's why adding a tripod head or a lens with a collar can be useful. It is neither difficult nor expensive : /stargazer95050/32924839 -- if you have a rail, all you need is a 1/4" Allen screw.
TRIPOD versus extra PIER or optional Telescope-BUGGY : the tripods that came with the mounts are very suitable -- the iOptron 2"-tripod allowed for an easy upgrade to add DIY adjustable feet extensions : /stargazer95050/29051567. Sadly, the smaller tripod legs of the ZEQ as well as Celestron's legs can't be upgraded that easily.
The idea of putting the heavy mount onto a cart appealed to me and I ordered one : /stargazer95050/19370235 but it failed to be useful to me. Either the terrain was too steep or too rough for the buggy or my setup was close enough to the car.
The pier proved to be more successful -- the 48" model may be a bit too tall with a large reflector but it helps to avoid collisions with long refractors : /stargazer95050/30571979 and /stargazer95050/30311293 The shorter 42" model has less clearance and for visual use, the 48" may be more comfortable
The iOptron pier can be transported quickly but cannot adapt to uneven terrain. Other "piers" have adjustable legs -- just like tripods. Not truly a pier but a lot heavier than typical tripods and with more clearance to avoid collisions : skywatcher-heavy-duty-pier-tripod.
Shopping Cart ($20) -- instead of a Tripod Cart ($350) : while adding wheels to move the assembled tripod + mount proved to be futile, adding a smaller (shopping) cart to move parts of the equipment proved to be "priceless". /stargazer95050/19813205 . With some more DIY modifications, this cart became mobile my "Astro-HQ" : /stargazer95050/30107697 _&_ /stargazer95050/27637353
12V to AC converter : The one I recommend is the FAN-LESS model. The noise of these fans is driving me crazy and the models without fans provide 100...150W. That's sufficient for most of my tasks -- laptops use 60W...90W (recharging + laptop on). Turn off the laptop and you can recharge several additional different items.
For urgent backup & recharge I happen to have a 400W noisy converter -- I learned the lessons the
12V to 5V concerter : If you have the 12V-to-AC converter, you can use the regular (brick) power-supply to recharge your equipment. when you travel, you can save weight & volume by leaving many P/S at home and use a single unit to recharge all. Good idea if you drive by car, not so good when you commute and air-travel.
while there's no such thing as an ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY LAPTOP on the market (yet), here are factors to consider when you plan to use your current one or buy a new one.
SCREEN GLARE : at night this isn't a big issue but when capturing SOLAR IMAGES or setup or shoot during twilight, the reflective glass can make viewing the screen very problematic.
BACKLIT KEYBOARD : you want one of those.
(WIRELESS TRACKBALL) : a trackball doesn't need a big surface to operate on -- that makes it ideal for small setups. Personally I very much prefer trackball over the small trackpad. A mouse needs lots of clean space to roll on -- a trackball doesn't. You quickly get used to one.
SCREEN RESOLUTION : the netbook 1366x786 isn't a terrible resolution but when you juggle several tools, it isn't enough. Images get shrunk a lot. Nowadays, 1080p or better is more or less standard in mid-range laptops. 13" may be sufficient but 1920 pixel width on that screen means some fonts are harder to read. I'd go for a 1920x1200 or better. The extra height is useful to keep the taskbar in view.
PROCESSOR PERFORMANCE : If you pick that laptop solely for the purpose of controlling your astro-equipment, a low-performance CPU with long battery life is your best choice. And there aren't many computing intensive AND time-critical tasks. AstroTortilla can demand CPU power but after the first round, it usually finishes within < 40 seconds on my laptop (using only 1 core of the i5). PHD and other tasks don't need much computing power either. NEF/CR2/RAW/FITS image preview does benefit from faster CPUs but you're not doing image editing in the dark, are you ?
Hard-disc or SSD : My answer is BOTH. buy the laptop WITH HD. That HD has the recovery portion of the OS and is the only way you can proof your software is legitamate. Clone the HD onto a (smaller, cheap) SSD and keep the HD is a safe place. The SSD is tougher when it comes to travel and bumpy handling.
USB ports : you never can have to many of those but to be practical consider this : 1 x USB3 to store images, 1 x wireless KBD/Mouse, N x astro-accessories. Hooking up all the equipment directly to the laptop isn't practical and creat mess of cables ==> use 1..2 cables plus 1..2 USB-hubs.
external video output : HDMI is my No. 1 priority (I've made the switch away from VGA) but yes, you find VGA in many conference rooms ==> VGA is a plus.
Tethered Gigabit-Ethernet : a must. to me. WIFI is nice but not as fast as 1G ethernet and more hassle to secure.
2" mirror diagonal to attach various eye-pieces -- likely you already got one with the purchase of your telescope. Purists will recommend more expensive options but this is good enough to get you going. Even as a photographer, you don't want to skip the VISUAL observation opportunity. Not only is it amazing to have a 1st-hand view of the sky without the interference of a camera, Polar-, GOTO- & Drift-alignment can be done without a camera. Visual observation with eye-pieces of different magnification is very useful and provide views, your camera cannot capture.
From my (limited) experience with Eyepiece I suggest these -- magnification is based on the telescope's focal length, apparent FOV is related to each EP.
-) Orion 35mm 2" wide-angle EP ($80) with large FOV isn't useful for alignment but excellent for observation -- even with the big reflector, the FOV is nice.
-) Orion 20mm 1.25" Illuminated Centering EP ($100). While it is only 1.25", I like the FOV and eye-relieve, crosshair for precise drift alignment & GOTO calibration.
-) some reviews also suggest the 12.5mm Ploessl ($80) -- much narrower FOV and larger magnification make this EP an option for more accurate approach.
-) different eye-pieces require different focus position, some vary by 2 inches !! ==> there are ZOOM-EP and IMO the major benefit is the ability to zoom with no or very little refocus (and no need to swap EP and extension tubes). These EP are more expensive -- in the $300 range for a 8...24mm with a decent wide FOV. You decide if this convenience is worth the extra $$$ --- BTW, some non-zoom EP cost the same or more .... Orion offers a $80 zoom but the apparent FOV is much smaller
-) I have several BAADER EYEPIECES, including the 8-24mm zoom-EP ($300). Convenience is one factor and the FOV is good. Baader eye-pieces also have one unique advantage : with a simple adapter ring, you can connect your SLR to it : /stargazer95050/19378985
Before any purchase, you should use CCDCALC or STELLARIUM's Occular view to try out the different telescope + EP combinations: /search/photo?w=315163&q=pageant
A pocket full of tools can safe your night as you frequently have to make all kinds of adjustments to the mount and other parts : /stargazer95050/30487429
COMPASS : for Polar Alignment
BUBBLE LEVEL / (digital) ANGLE METER : for Polar Alignment
GPS : optional, for Polar Alignment
(digital) Caliper : measure position of focus
(black) tape & pens : mark zero- & leveled-position, tape is removable
Velcro, bungee cords & cable-straps : easy ways to organize the cables
SOFTWARE-tools -- that's a whole different can of worms
USB-to-RS232 adapter for the EQ-mount : I find it very useful to connect the mount to the laptop. And since I am using that laptop to control the camera (and for autoguiding) there's no reason not to connect it. The handcontroller knows a lot of targets but combining camera + mount, even without auto-guiding has very unique advantages : improve pointing accuracy : /stargazer95050/636937 and "click & slew"-approach. From star-map to actual stars : /stargazer95050/636653
USB-hub & camera-cables : Initially you may shy away from the extra effort and you can continue to use the camera's interval timer or cable release. Reviewing results on a larger (laptop)-screen at comfortable angle is just one of several benefits a laptop adds. You can run more flexible exposure-sequences without constantly adjusting settings on the camera or remote.
Auto-guiding setup + laptop : this will be a (future) step forward to perfect imaging. The requirements for the laptop aren't very high and much of the software is free or low-cost : /stargazer95050/636653 & /stargazer95050/636937
Adding auto-guiding is a bigger step -- a more expensive one. Personally I see more advantages in using a separate guide-scope and I explain why here : /stargazer95050/637119
Big tent & sunshade : it may sound absurd to suggest to an astronomer to buy a big sunshade -- but it isn't. To prepare for a shoot, you have to be out before sunset, or even stay on location for more than one day. You also want to keep (big) telescopes out of the heat. A 10x10ft shade can protect you & your equipment. To increase the shade, I suggest to add some Aluminet to close of the sides too ==> my setup : /stargazer95050/33230517 if you go for extended stays, this is very helpful : $75 ..$100 for the tent. Covering your RV, camper or tent, also helps to keep them cool $50...$200 for the Aluminet.
If you like solar observations (or solar eclipses), you will agree a sun shade is useful. And this being a tent, it also provides coverage from the other enemy -- mist & dew.
All in all summarizing the expenses -- you'll have to add taxes based on you local & shop. For your orientation, I've listed the S&H for big or heavy items. YMMV.
- The ZEQ25 : $850 + $35 S&H -- consider additional counter weights ($100)
- triplet (700mm f/7) refractor : $1500 + $35 S&H, fell free to spend more or less
- 12V battery + charger for mobile use $30...$50, more for Li-Ion
- optional : D-style Losmandy rail 14" : $70 + $10 S&H
- Finderscope : $200 for a good one with solid rings (or $100+ $60 + DIY)
- 2" to SLR adapter varies from $20 T-ring to $60 for combined T-ring + 2" nose-piece
- set of 2" (diameter) extension tubes : maybe you won't need it in the beginning. Later, I found out I did. I think I paid $90 for a 3 piece set.
- 2" mirror diagonal -- $0, included with my scope
- I recommend to add two GOOD eye-pieces -- your choice. each $50...$100, the zoom eye-pieces are a "luxury item" and cost $300. I DISLIKE the tiny eye-pieces that often are included or those 5 for $99 bundles.
- box of mechanical tools : the big ticket items on that list are the compas ($25), digital caliper ($25) and digital bubble level ($25...$40). Add some Allen-keys, wrench and other accessories, $100...$150 will give you plenty of useful tools
- USB accessories : The hub is < $10, the RS232 varies but IMO shouldn't cost more than $30, add a USB extension or RS232-cable to bridge the gap between mount & laptop. ==> $50 should be sufficient
- The tent accessories -- initially $0. Later you may see the benefit of having extra shade and spend < $200
Earlier, I suggested, you put the expenses in relation to existing Canon or Nikon SLR equipment. A popular lens, and moderately expensive one, is the SLR's 70-200VR @ ~ $2400. Tripod + (ball)-head + L-bracket can range from $200 ... $2000. Without a camera, your investment easily reaches $3000 for a good quality setup.
The telescope basics add up to ~$2850 (no extra eye-pieces) and that sum includes a tripod, a mount & 700mm triplet-telescope plus accessories. You sure are getting a lot more for your money. And if you happen to have a 70-200VR, you are welcome to use it on a motorized telescope mount ($20 for an adapter rail to fit the camera onto the telescope mount).
25lbs of equipment already is a considerable size -- but you reach that limit much faster than you may think -- especially after you add auto-guiding equipment to improve your astrophotography results. Example /stargazer95050/28508957 To improve guiding accuracy, you don't want to max out the load. Therefore, if you want to have more margin for future upgrade, start with a mount capable of handling a heavier setup. Usage will be no different -- price & weight are. My choice was the iEQ45. That is about $1000 more expensive than the ZEQ25. If you feel like it, there's no upper limit : astro-physics-1100-german-eq-mount
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