equipment

Following my review of the Star Adventurer, Skywatcher have now introduced a "mini" version of their astrophotography and timelapse platform in a smaller and app controlled version. This review describes my first month using 'SAM', which proves to be very easy to learn and use. Control via the Skywatcher app is intuitive and effective, the mount itself is very compact and it delivers impressive tracking performance for its size. In short there's a lot to like. Read the full review below.

07
Apr

Skywatcher Star Adventurer: Review

Skywatcher were not the first to offer portable tracking mounts but the Star Adventurer unit is a very capable and complete package. It is heavier but also has a more substantial payload than the competing options and it did feel much more comfortable supporting my full frame Canon camera and 200mm lens. Once you go beyond wide angle lenses, tracking accuracy still limits you to quite short exposures but a lot can be achieved with this portable 'track and stack' approach. The combination of flexible tracking rates, quality built-in polar scope and latitude base plus the suitability for timelapse should make this quite an attractive option.

I've used a few modified Canon DSLR cameras over the years for my astrophotography, including an Astro40D from Central DS which I used for many years of widefield astrophotography including one of my favourite ever images of the Southern Cross region.

With a new home (at least part-time) under dark skies I decided it was time for an upgrade and took the plunge with the CDS-5D (see disclosure below). This is my review of the camera, which will be updated with more tests and images.


CDS-5D with Pentax 300mm lens
Single 5 minute sub-exposure, f5.6, ISO800
30
Aug

Accessories for Night Sky Photography

You can make a great start in night sky photography with just your DSLR and a tripod. However, these accessories will all help once you start getting serious:

I first saw the eMotimo Tilt-Box motion control units two years ago, when a participant on my Night Sky Photography Workshops brought one along to play with. I could see then that they were both well designed and built and also great fun. With the release of the Black TB3 version and my own experiments with motion control needing an upgrade, I couldn't resist getting my hands on one and hope this review will encourage others to have a play with one of their own.

03
Jun

Dew Heaters for Night Sky Photography

This article describes a cheap, lightweight and effective solution to dew for night sky photography.

One of the more annoying aspects of Night Sky Photography is dealing with dew. Particularly in moist climates on a cold night, moisture in the air can condense onto the cold front surface of your lens quite quickly. This can bring a night of winter photography to a rapid close and can rule out long star trail exposures or timelapse sequences.

20
May

QHY9 vs Astro40D

Any addicted astrophotographer is always considering new equipment, and also debating the merits of several options. One of the most common questions for beginners is about the difference between digital SLRs and astronomical CCD cameras. I love a good experiment so below is my answer.

Both these images were taken with a Takahashi Epsilon 160 astrograph (530mm f3.3). Total exposure time for both images is 115 minutes (almost two hours). The comparison is between a CentralDS cooling modified and spectrum enhanced Canon 40D and a QHY9 astronomical CCD camera.

Through a combination of luck and good fortune, Kaz and I have three different Canon cameras - a venerable 20D DSLR, an ultra compact IXUS 70 and most recently the G9. Phil wants to know how much he sacrifices when he takes the G9 cross country skiing instead of the 20D and Kaz wants to prove that the G9 she chose to keep (after Phil won it) is really better than the IXUS 70.

Having 'upgraded' to a Hutech modified Canon 40D Digital SLR, I was keen to see how it compared to my existing Hutech 20D and what the optimum settings were for ISO and sub-exposure length. The images and results here for the 20D and 40D should be comparable with a 350D and 450D respectively since they use the same sensor.

Astro Tips

If you've ever wondered whether it's possible to use a Meade CCD or SBIG ST4 autoguider with a Celestron mount...it is: here is a document that describes my experience at working out how, seeing as no one at Meade or Celestron or on the newsgroups could tell me at the time, although that was in 1998.

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