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Anyone here into Astrophotography?


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Speak up geeks! Im enlisting in the ranks!

Im looking to buy a telescope under $600 that would let me see planets & deep sky objects.

Problem is, I know as much about telescopes as I know about cars. I turn the key, put gas and take it to its oil changes and thats all I know (to give you an idea).

I know there's 3 kinds of scopes, reflectors,refractors and those Casselgrain (sp?) ones.

Reviews online seem to be written for people who know WTF all those terms of optics and mathmumbojumbo mean, even the "newbie guides" are full of it. None of them puts things in laymans terms.. they shall burn in hell

Ive read many recomendations: get a 6" or better aperture (so far I think more aperture means they gather more light which means better image quality... or something like that), then I see that the Casselgrains are better for novices since they dont require much maintainance on their optics+ they dont have color-aberration or image screwing-up things that the other 2 scopes are prone to... and such.

but ive heard the reflectors end up having much better images. So right now im torn between a reflector and a casselgrain. Too bad the casselgrains seem to be only 5" or smaller.

In any case, here's what is a MUST for me:

1) GO-TO feature.

2) See planets in good detail (ive read that if a scope can see several rings in saturn its got good detail, those that see only the rings as a single-blur around the planet aint good).

3) $600 or less

4) Ability to mount a camera on it & have it track the "target"

Nice bonuses:

1) Would be neat if you could see the image on the scope in your PC.. dont know if thats possible.

2) Require little maintainance... my ignorance on this subject scares the heck out of having to take the thing apart to..oil it or something

3) Ability to get decent detail in deep-sky viewing. Im a nutcase for the hubble pics of galaxies and nebulas, but im well aware they are color enchanced pics, so I dont expect to see that stuff on the scope.

So far the scopes ive been looking at are:

SkyView Pro 8 EQ

Optical Specifications

Type Reflector

Diameter (Mirror or Lens) 203mm

Light Grasp 50.1 sq. in.

Focal Length/ F Ratio 1000mm, f/4.9


(w/ included eyepieces) 40x, 100x

Highest theoretical magnification 480x


Eyepieces Sirius Pl├Âssl 25.0mm, 10.0mm

Finder Scope 6x30

Focuser 2" Rack-and-pinion

Diagonal N/A

Other included items Collimation cap

Optional Electronic Drive TrueTrack single axis, dual ax

Other Features 2" Focuser

Physical Parameters

Mount type SkyView Pro

Tripod Steel

Weight, assembled 62 lbs. 0 oz.

Tube Length 38.0 in.

Also looking at:

Meade 6" f/5 (SN-6EC) LXD55 w/Electronic Control

Includes 6" f/5 schmidt-newtonian optical tube assembly with EMC super multi-coatings; quick attach cradle ring assembly with locks; 6x30 achromatic viewfinder; all-metal rack-and-pinion focuser with eyepiece holders for both 1.25" and 2" eyepieces; Super Plossl 26mm eyepiece. LXD55 equatorial mount with worm gear drives and electric slow-motion controls; micrometric controls; illuminated polar alignment finder with reticle; variable height field tripod with accessory shelf. Autostar dual-axis control system with 9-speed drive controls, 30,223-object database and GO TO locating; battery pack accepting eight (user-supplied) D-cells (optional power cords available separately); instructions.

Meade 8" f/4 (SN-8EC) LXD55 w/Electronic Control

Includes 8" f/4 schmidt-newtonian optical tube assembly with EMC super multi-coatings; quick attach cradle ring assembly with locks; 6x30 achromatic viewfinder; all-metal rack-and-pinion focuser with eyepiece holders for both 1.25" and 2" eyepieces; Super Plossl 26mm eyepiece. LXD55 equatorial mount with worm gear drives and electric slow-motion controls; micrometric controls; illuminated polar alignment finder with reticle; variable height field tripod with accessory shelf. Autostar dual-axis control system with 9-speed drive controls, 30,223-object database and GO TO locating; battery pack accepting eight (user-supplied) D-cells (optional power cords available separately); instructions

Meade DS-2114ATS

Supplied complete with Autostar #494 Computer Controller for observing 1,500 objects automatically (accepts 8AA user-supplied batteries), aluminized and multi-coated primary mirror and matching elliptical flat secondary mirror (D=114mm, F=1000mm f/8.8); aluminum tube assembly; giant rack-and-pinion focuser with sleeve lock and 1.25" and 2" eyepiece holders; altazimuth mount with variable-tension locks on both axis; cradle ring assembly; #492 Dual-Motor Electronic Control System with control motor and cord for each telescope axis, battery pack accepting ten AA-size (user-supplied) batteries, control panel, and 4-speed Electronic Controller; Meade StarNavigator PC-compatible astronomical software with database of over 10,000 celestial objects, full-length adjustable heavy-duty aluminum field tripod with accessory shelf; 6x30 viewfinder,; two eyepieces (1.25") - MA25mm, MH9mm; operating instructions.

So Geeks, Any suggestions?

(all the above scopes i can find priced below or just above $600 in reputable stores)

One important thing about me that I think would be important for anyone offering advice: Im color blind (red/green when mixed..i can tell red and green apart but mix them and they blur.. also my color blindness extends to Hues).

To give you an idea, here's a color-blind test online: http://www.liquidgeneration.com/sabotage/vision_sabotage.asp

I cant see ANYTHING inside the damn color slides beggining slide #2 and up. I do see slide #1 well, but #2 and those after it I just see little dots of color with no pattern nor number nor shape.

So if the reflector telescopes have this kind of color-smearing effect... I DONT CARE HAHAHAAH. *sigh*

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First off, that's one seriously screwed up test you put up there. Plate 6 has no number, and will scare the crap outta anyone who tries to go to the next plate...(puts up a picture of some old chick all covered in blood and plays a loud sound of her screaming, scared the bejesus out of me!).

Second, I would consider at least an 8 inch scope for astrophotography, less than that will be somewhat disappointing. 8 inch scopes on up will give pretty good detail on even the more distant planets.

My interest in astrophotography was deep sky objects, however. For that, even an 8 inch will be a disappointment. That said, you can still get some nice pictures out of an 8 inch, but I really wanted to resolve some nice images of other galaxies, and other deep sky objects. For such photography, 12 to 16 inch reflectors are likely the best bet, but be prepared to pay through the nose, ears, and various other bodily orifices.

For the record: You mention not expecting to get nice color shots out of a scope. Not true, you won't be able to SEE the color during naked eye viewing, but the color will show up on film, (often spectacularly in a 16 inch scope...those 16 inch Meade reflectors are great deep sky scopes, I still dream of getting one...but the cost...ouch!), and the longer your exposure time, the better the color will be...

Try to recall that prior to the Hubble space telescope, we still had beautiful full color pictures of deep space objects, and most of these pictures were taken with medium to large reflectors. Hubble now blows them away...but who could afford one of those?

Aperature affects maximum usable magnification, didn't seem that you were too clear on that.

On maintenance: It's unavoidable with any scope. Sooner or later, it'll get dust inside, or you'll jolt it and mirrors will need to be re-aligned...or the mirrors will need resurfacing... Refractors are fairly easy to clean...but it's a pain. Reflectors of any real size often have a side cover you can take off to reach in and use a VERY soft brush/blower to flick dust off lenses/mirrors. Reflectors overall are your best bet. Casselgrains are too small for what you want. (Though you can still take pictures, and resolve some detail of planets and some deep sky objects, and not worry as much about the cost).

Again, it all comes down to what you're willing to spend.

One last thing: If you have an interest in astrophotography, especially of the more distant planets, or deep sky objects, I hope you don't live in or even anywhere near a city, or streetlights. If you do, you'll need to trek to a darker place. Good astrophotography really rather requires no sky reflected light. With this in mind, remember that moving a scope around a lot, (not to mention the vibration it'll recieve inside a running/moving vehicle), will hasten its need for maintenance.

I hope this has helped some. It's a great hobby: It's also an expensive one. I can no longer afford it. Enjoy it for me, will ya?


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I just noticed you mentioned a 600$ or under price point, so Dreada's comments are probably the best advice for you. A 6 inch scope would give awesome shots of the moon, and would do good at resolving Jupiter and it's moons, and perhaps some cloud detail, as well as Saturn and it's rings. It would also do fairly well with some of the larger nebulas (Orion Nebula comes to mind) and clusters such as Pleiades and the like. (Even a 3 or 4 inch scope can resolve hundreds of stars in the Pleiades cluster).

Most of the info I gave earlier reflects my strong leaning towards deep sky objects.


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thanks for the replies fellas.

It seems ill end up getting a 5" refractor for planetary viewing.. deep sky is what i would love to photograph but to keep this realistic, i got a better chance of getting GOOD pictures of jupiter with a 5" refractor than a nebula pic from a 6" reflector.

BTW, these casselgrain scopes, wth are they good for? As far as ive been informed refractors=best planetery views, reflectors=best deep sky views

but what do those cassel's do better?

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The biggest advantage to a Cassegrain scope is it tends to be considerably shorter in length when compared to a reflector or refractor of the same aperature. It has no other real advantages/disadvantages over reflectors, other than they tend to require more maintenance, because they have more complex innards.

I have to correct my previous statement on them, they actually DO make 16 inch versions of this kind of scope...(though the one I just saw was over 12,000$ US). There appears to have been some changes in the hobby since I last looked for a scope.

Cassegrains are one of the more complex scopes internally. Also, it seems they can vary as far as image quality is concerned, even when you are comparing two identical scopes from the same manufacturer. I'm guessing that has to do with the fact they actually use a reflective mirror AND a refractive lens, as opposed to the simpler Newtonian reflector. Doesn't take much of an imperfection in one mirror to cause an abberation, consider if you have a few imperfections between the lens, the mirrors, and I guess that could do it.

After what I just read, I'd still probably pick a reflector, but that's just my budget talking. That said, the Cassegrains are good for deep sky viewing, if you get a good sized model for it...(8inch plus in my opinion). Smaller sizes would be good for the moon, planets, and larger nebulas and such. Take my opinion here with a grain of salt, however, as even with a 4 inch scope you can still take a picture of say...M31 Andromeda galaxy and discern it's disk. But there wouldn't be much more detail than that.

A refractor as you've settled on is a great bet for planets, and some nebulas and the like, and will give you unbeatable image quality, (provided you don't buy a cheap department store scope...steer clear of those). If you outgrow it, you can keep it for a spare, or spotting scope, or sell it to put the cash towards another scope, so you can't really lose.

Hope I haven't confused the issue any. Keep looking up!


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Im getting a heartache..

no wait, thats what I get with the GF..

My wallet hurts.... wait i get that with the GF too..


Just saw a 10" Reflector LXD-55 for less than $1000 WITH the Go-To and tripod .

aya yai...

Would a 10" reflector get better or just as good a view of the planets as the 5" refractor?

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Yup, Dreada's right. 10 inch reflector would beat the pants off a 5 inch refractor.

A scope that size could even find Pluto, though the detail would be low. As a plus, you'd also be pretty well set for deep sky objects, too. That's a good deal you found, Tac.

Really wouldn't be much you couldn't do with it.

Let us know if you get it, I'll be interested to hear how you're doing with it.

By the way, the LXD-55 is a Meade, isn't it? I really like Meade's scopes.


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Meade is having an AMAZING deal now with them scopes. You get the entire set of the eyepieces for just $99.

They celebrating their 30th aniversary this way. The whole set is worth $650!

After all is done I think the whole thing, with go-to , the $99 optics and the mandatory adapters for the cameras I think it might end up $1200.

As always, TWICE what i wanted to spend hahahaha. So far only Battlecruiser has been the only thing in my life i'd expect to pay twice for and get it at half price.

Derek, you gotta speak to them marketing fellas in Meade

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Yup, reflectors need to be collimated once in a while, (aligning the mirrors), especially if you move them around a lot. You can buy a kit, and do it yourself. It's very simple.

I remember being scared of collimation, but it's easier than setting up the scope, heheh.

I think the worst thing about reflectors is cleaning the mirror. Even that's not so bad, though.


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Well Duncan, ive been pointed to certain websites with pics taken with both refractors and reflectors.

The 5" refractor beat the 10" S-N with a stick and then some on planets AND nebula pics (which is what I really want to end up doing).

Aperture fever is rising and im giving the 6" refractor some dirty looks... gawd help me...

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Heheh...I think all along both Dreada and I did concur that for visual quality, (that's quality, not distance or 'light gathering ability'), a refractor is best. That is because lenses are inherantly easier to make with no abberations than a mirror.

That said, problem with a GOOD refractor is they are pricier for a unit with quality lenses compared to a similar sized reflector. Especially if you try going over 5 or so inches.

I did state a 4 inch or larger refractor would be great for most of the planets (say, out to Saturn), and for nearby (relatively speaking of course lol) nebula, as well.

All that said, a good 8" or larger reflector will produce excellent images, yet will also able to get images of 'faint fuzzy' deep sky objects.

I have to point out it is also hard tell what conditions existed when a picture was taken, such as the comparison pictures you mentioned. Not to mention the skill of the person taking them, or the quality of their equipment. Any light pollution, or even poor air quality, can make pictures taken with a 8" or larger scope seem fuzzy, as excess light, and atmospheric distortion will show up more on a scope with more light gathering ability.

I'd be reluctant, were I you, to lean upon those pictures you saw as 'proof' of which is better, considering most of the beautiful images I've seen in my life came from reflectors, not refractors. (i.e. National Geographic magazine, Astronomy mag, and most Astronomy books I've read prior to the launch of Hubble...go take a look for yourself!). It's just not as simple as 'Before and After' diet photos, and anyone trying to claim it is is off in their own world somewhere, lol!

I'll say this, though, all things considered, it would probably be easier for a beginner to take nice images with a good refractor. Smaller scopes are less subject to vibration, and light pollution, and a host of other things.

If your aim is only planets and near nebulae, then jump on the 6 or so inch refractor, if you want room to grow, though, bigger is better. Pretty much as we've said from the start.

It's a choice only you can make, based on what you're looking to do. I would suggest you keep looking at such websites as you've visited, it does seem you've found that it isn't as easy as just saying 'I'll get this one and hope it'll do what I want'.


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  • 2 weeks later...

7" Mak it will be. May be expensive but at least I get a good mount and a scope that does both planets and DSO's quite nicely & is renowned for giving the crispest images of any type of scope.

Had I gone with the AR6 i wouldve been getting a decent scope on a crappy mount and paid 50% of the price of the mak.. and if I did want to get a new scope in the future I wouldve ended up purchasing a better mount with it. With the Mak7" I would only need to buy the telescope (without mount) if I wanted a new scope in the future

*add any other valid justification here, my wallet has my testicles in a death-grip..and it WONT LET GO*

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  • 3 months later...


6" Refractor (yea, me wallet had a vicious judo lock on me 'nads )

Now where the farg is the TacOps key on the AUTOSTAR keypad? $#@$%^$

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My father and I will be getting a Tele soon to =) ever sense I started playing BCM I've taken an interest in the stars ... hmmm .. wonder if I can scrung enough metal to make a cockpit and instraments to take me to the stars... hmmmm.....

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Oh yeah and don't forget that you need to align the reflector or any telescope with the pole star and the scope needs to be balanced for proper object tracking. It's also good to have a 3-4" refractor piggy backed on the scope to properly keep the object centered. The guide scope that usually comes with the telescope is mostly good for only sighting the object. So now you are talking about more calibrating. You need to calibrate the guide scope and the tracking scope so that all objects that appear in the center of the main scope are also centered in all other helping scopes. Phew .

I have a meade 6" reflector I bought for $150 in 1979 dollars. Aluminum cast scope stand (man is it heavy) with motor a full set of eye pieces and the all important Barlow lens etc. This scope still rocks. As long as you treat the mirrors and lenses with care they should last a long time. And I agree cleaning the mirror is the one part of the scope that's a pain that is if it needs cleaning that an airbrush can't take care of.

A 6" scope is in my opionion a good starter scope for the newbie astronomer.

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