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Thread: If you are thinking of getting into Astrophotography, may I suggest choosing another genre

  1. #1
    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    If you are thinking of getting into Astrophotography, may I suggest choosing another genre

    OK, I'm going to have a rant !

    Two things have always fascinated me since I was a wee small lad, birds, and the night sky.

    I've dabbled in birding, still am, have had some minor success, and know my limitations, both personal, and equipment wise.

    I've decided to explore my other interest, nightscapes, where you marry a beautiful night sky to a terrestrial object. Sounds easy enough, at least the stars don't move as quickly as hyper-active little birds. Well stars do move, but a little more predictably. So, what gear do I need, or more importantly what gear can I afford that will give me results that I''d be happy with, and I am a bloody hard marker on my own work.

    After many weeks of surfing the internet I decided on a Skywatcher EQ mount, apparently suitable for astro imaging, with either the HEQ5 or the EQ6 mounts seeming to suit my requirements.

    What a mishmash of mis-information I found, the worst offender being the manufacturer. They are all over the place like a mad woman's breakfast (sorry if that is no longer politically correct) with no real pathway to current model availability. Every website I looked at gave conflicting information.

    I settled on, and bought, an HEQ5. It arrived, completely mis-represented by it's description, was faulty, was returned, and refunded. The mob that I got it from, Tasco Australia, the Australian Skywatcher distributor, have absolutely no concept of what 'customer satisfaction' means, and I think that term would show up in their dictionary as an oxymoron.

    As I sit here, typing this, smoke is not so gently wafting out of my ears and nostrils, and I'm thinking I may have a fuse about to blow.

    However, I'm the type of person that 'hangs in there', likes a challenge, and believes that the system can be beaten, if you persevere. I'm in the process of ordering another mount, an EQ6 this time, and hope that I will eventually triumph in my search for the right, for me, gear.

    I will keep you informed of the outcome of my quest, and sign off with the musical score from The Man of La Mancha softly playing in the background.
    Cheers
    Kev

    D800 & GAS

  2. #2
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Well, I hope the likes of Nardes or NChant get to look at this post, Cage. I woudder thought that was the antz-pantz of mounts - well, of an affordable nature, and I had my eye on it a 2ple of years ago.
    Now I'll wait and see what others say, as I'm not sure what I could say that would help.
    Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    As I sit there waiting for a bird to arrive , and then when I look up to see if there's a bird in the sky, I'll think of you Kev (well occasionally ).
    Love the night skies but for some reason I've never really wanted to get photos of them. Happy high heavens hunting.

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    Fishy bricat's Avatar
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    You cannot beat the system. It has been designed for people like you. Just when you thought you were winning they will throw another spanner in the works. And they have plenty of spanners. They also breed incompetence in these places. I think I saw the smoke wafting from that direction. Good luck with your endeavours. Nothing like a challenge. cheers Brian
    Cheers Brian. Canon 7D Kit lenses EFS 18-55 IS EFS 55-250 IS EF28-90 Canon EF 2xll Extender Sigma DG150-500 OS Speedlight 420EX

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    Ausphotography Regular swifty's Avatar
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    Turn it into a positive, Kev. I know you're still going through the annoyance currently but surely someone else would go through the same if reliable information wasn't available.
    Do a write up once you get things sorted and it'll benefit the whole photographic community.
    Nikon FX

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    I’m not sure what was wrong with the HEQ5 (is it the HEQ5 SynScan GPS model), but from what I have read on the SKywatcher website, it is the baby brother of the EQ6.

    This heavy-duty HEQ5 Pro mount is a smaller version of the sturdy EQ6 Pro mount”.

    http://ca.skywatcher.com/_english/02...ail.php?sid=59

    With that, I would be concerned about your expectations about the EQ6 in terms of what it can deliver compared to the EQ5; I hope you will not go through the same disappointment.

    When I first started in astronomy I purchased a Vixen GP mount (made in Japan) which had 2 motors for moving the telescope (or camera/lens) to compensate for the earth’s daily rotation. The Right Ascension (RA) motor basically drives the RA axis at a rate of 1 revolution in 23 hours 56 mins, thus tracking the stars as they appear to move in the night sky. RA can be thought of as analogous to lines of Longitude on the Earth.

    The Declination (DEC) motor is not used in plain tracking, it provides for moving the telescope in Declination which is analogous to lines of Latitude.

    To get the benefit of this tracking, you have to Polar Align the mount so that the RA axis is pointing accurately at the South Celestial Pole (SCP), that imaginary point in the skies around which the Earth appears to revolve on its axis. The SCP for me in Brisbane is some 11 degrees East of Magnetic South as shown by a compass. It will be different for you.

    Where the HEQ5 and the EQ6 differ from my Vixen GP mount is that they incorporate advanced electronics and a computerised hand controller that provides amazing functionality for searching for objects and then commanding the mount to “GoTo” those objects and centre them in the eyepiece of a telescope or camera lens. But, you have to ensure that the mount is set up and aligned correctly so “it knows where it is” before it can GoTo an object in the database.

    I found the learning curve very steep and several times I felt like bailing out, until I realised that these mounts more like scientific instruments rather than consumer equipment. As my knowledge of astronomy, astronomical concepts, the celestial sphere, how the stars move, etc. grew I finally began to enjoy the hobby.

    If modern mounts are GPS enabled they should, be able to assist with the set up procedure once you have got the mount outside and aligned to the SCP. Some mounts have a mode where you don’t have to set up the mount to align with the SCP (mainly for visual observing). You can just plonk the tripod down and the mount will figure out where it is and can then give you a tour of the skies.

    Good luck with the EQ6 and I hope you continue your endeavours to master the concepts, hardware, firmware and software!

    Cheers

    Dennis
    Last edited by nardes; 13-08-2015 at 11:43am. Reason: Fixed typo

  7. #7
    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    Hi Dennis,

    My disappointment was not with the HEQ5 per se, but rather with what I received not being what was offered.

    The ad for the HEQ5 that I bought stated that the mount was upgradeable to GoTo capability merely by changing the handset to a SynScan handset. That would indicate that it was a Syntrek mount with the stepper motors and it wasn't, having only the basic RA and Dec motors.

    It was also supposed to have an illuminated Polar Scope (it wasn't illuminated) and was North Hemisphere only, missing Octans being engraved on the reticule.

    And just to really pee me off, it was faulty, with the 1X East to West function (the sidereal one you use for tracking) not working.

    Mate, I've done heaps of research on these mounts and know what I should be getting. I'd have preferred the HEQ5 mount for the weight factor, being 10kgs as opposed to the EQ6's 16kgs, but then the extra stability will be a good trade-off. Gawd, I'm going to have to do some exercises just to pick it up.

    Anyway, hopefully the EQ6 will arrive in new condition, and do what it should. I do realise that although this mount is a bit above the cheap 'n' nasty stuff, it is a long, long way from the top of the line gear. I was just a bit short of the readies for a nice Losmandy G8.

    Cheers

    Kev
    Last edited by Cage; 13-08-2015 at 8:01pm.

  8. #8
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    GSH! Now I agree with you. It IS a litany of inCMPetence!!

  9. #9
    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    The thought is evolving in my mind that somewhere, out there, somebody, or something, doesn't want me to take their picture.

    My new EQ6 arrived today and I eagerly started unpacking it.

    First the nice new shiny white tripod, looks really solid.

    However the un-boxing didn't proceed as expected when I discovered that I had a shiny black mount to go with my shiny white tripod. OK, I can live with that and the white tripod feet will be easier to see in the dark. And the black and white look quite smart together.

    Um, hold the phone, where are the counterweights ? And where is the other mounting plate lock knob ?

    Shouldn't there be some instructions included ?

    And just to rub salt into my wounds the mounting jigger I bought for the HEQ5 doesn't fit the EQ6.

    Rang the dealer and he is sending me the missing bits and is providing me with some instructions.

    It's probably just as well it's clouded over and rain is predicted for the next week, or I may have had a monumental hissy fit !!

    PS: And Brian, don't you dare say "I told you so".
    Last edited by Cage; 21-08-2015 at 3:50pm.

  10. #10
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Kevin. DROP everything and GO and WORK at that store!!!

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    Steady on there Am, this is a family type forum.

    No need to go dropping four letter words, and particularly that 'W' word.

  12. #12
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Srrie. What was I thinking?

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    Ausphotography Regular
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    Wow, what a litany of blunders …

    Did you order the equipment direct from the importer, or was it via a bricks and mortar astronomy shop? I’ve experienced the occasional minor hiccough when purchasing astronomy gear from B&M shops, but nothing like your experience as these shops are usually owned/operated/staffed by keen amateur astronomers.

    Hop you get it all sorted soon.

    Cheers

    Dennis

  14. #14
    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    Cheers Dennis.

    I've tracked down a Manual for the Orion Atlas EQ, same mount, different badge.

    I bought it from an online store based in Adelaide. I don't think the basic mount is made anymore but it is brand new and was a fair price. I'm saving up for the SynScan upgrade kit which will give me the stepper motors and GoTo capability.
    Last edited by Cage; 21-08-2015 at 8:10pm.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    And the saga continues ........

    A courier arrived yesterday with my missing bits. Well sort of, only one of the two missing counterweights arrived.

    I phoned the seller and got the response "Oh, does it come with two?" Well, you're in the business and should know.

    The missing saddle lock knob did turn up but no longer needed as I've given the old poorly designed saddle the flick.

    OK, one counterweight will do the job with only my camera mounted, just. I've sorted how to mount the camera using my Kirk monopod ball head and my Wimberley Sidekick. I'm only waiting now on some socket head screws to get it all together.

    Anyway, here's some pics of where I'm at.

    First, the Black, White and Chrome mount and tripod. Looks pretty damn flash, hey?
    Mount Set Up - AP.jpg

    The old saddle puck, dreadful design
    Mount Head - OLD - AP.jpg

    The new saddle puck, much better
    EQ6 - New Saddle - AP.jpg

    Camera mounted, ballhead just tacked to plate for photo
    Mount - AP.jpg

    I think I can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel .............

    PS: That little lot tips the scales at around 32kgs and add in the gel battery at 13kgs, plus bits 'n' pieces, and I'm now looking for a lightweight trolley.
    Last edited by Cage; 01-09-2015 at 10:42am.

  16. #16
    Loves The Wildlife. Mary Anne's Avatar
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    Pretty Flash is right Kev, and I bet you will have lots of fun with it..
    My 52/2011 Challenge

    I shoot with Canon And Olympus Cameras



  17. #17
    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Anne View Post
    Pretty Flash is right Kev, and I bet you will have lots of fun with it..
    I'm sure I will Mary Anne, and possibly some frustrations, but it is all worth it when you eventually get it right.

    The backdrop is my lounge-room that I should be painting instead of mucking around with this stuff.

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    Hi Kev

    Sweet looking set up.

    Not sure if you have fully assembled the mount/tripod combo, but did you get the “spreader” that fits on the short bar under the tripod head. This then spreads the legs to fix them, making them more stable.

    http://ca.skywatcher.com/_english/02...ail.php?sid=58

    Cheers

    Dennis

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    Serial Truant.... phild's Avatar
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    Kev,

    Not sure exactly which EQ6 you have, most of the recent models can be controlled with a PC (i.e. no handbox necessary) using EQmod (free) software and a simple USB (or serial if you have a very old laptop) interface. The tripod mix is a bit odd, the EQ6 came in black, the EQ6PRO mount and tripod was all white, so you have a mix from two models, no problem as both are physically identical.

    For anyone else thinking of venturing in to AP, my suggestion is to firstly join Iceinspace astro forum, look, learn and ask questions. Seek out any local groups who meet in your area and maybe attend one of the star partys throughout the year, if you can wait, meet with others and discuss the pros and cons of mounts and the best places to buy from.
    Phil

  20. #20
    Still in the Circle of Confusion
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    Quote Originally Posted by nardes View Post
    Hi Kev

    Sweet looking set up.

    Not sure if you have fully assembled the mount/tripod combo, but did you get the “spreader” that fits on the short bar under the tripod head. This then spreads the legs to fix them, making them more stable.

    http://ca.skywatcher.com/_english/02...ail.php?sid=58

    Cheers

    Dennis
    Hi Dennis,

    I did get the spreader shelf, just didn't fit it for the pic.

    Cheers

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by phild View Post
    Kev,

    Not sure exactly which EQ6 you have, most of the recent models can be controlled with a PC (i.e. no handbox necessary) using EQmod (free) software and a simple USB (or serial if you have a very old laptop) interface. The tripod mix is a bit odd, the EQ6 came in black, the EQ6PRO mount and tripod was all white, so you have a mix from two models, no problem as both are physically identical.

    For anyone else thinking of venturing in to AP, my suggestion is to firstly join Iceinspace astro forum, look, learn and ask questions. Seek out any local groups who meet in your area and maybe attend one of the star partys throughout the year, if you can wait, meet with others and discuss the pros and cons of mounts and the best places to buy from.
    Hi Phil,

    I could probably list about fifteen different model codes I've found for the EQ6/NEQ6, however there were really only three main variants, the basic EQ6 with tracking motors only, the SynTrek version with stepper motors but only a basic hand controller, and the Pro/SynScan version with the stepper motors and the GoTo hand controller.

    Synta seem to have dropped the basic EQ6 around 2010/2011. I'm guesstimating my model to be one of the later ones as it has the polar scope illumination brightness control on it. The early EQ6's came with 1 1/2" diameter tripod legs however the white ones I received were the later 2" ones. Got lucky there.

    Unfortunately computer control is only an option with the stepper motors and the updated control board, and I have the upgrade kit on my 'to get list'.

    I've joined IIS and also Stargazers Lounge (DarkKnight) and have found a wealth of info and lots of folk willing to give advice. I'm also in the process of joining the NSW Astronomical Society with a view to going to their dark sky site at Wiruna.

    Did you get any shots of the recent Aurora? And thanks for your helpful comments.

    Cheers

    Kev

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