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11/30/-1
    
Monday, March 14th, 2011
I'm in the process of setting up an imaging system specifically for wide field shots 18mm to 180mm. Tonight I've been setting up the camera, guider and motorized focus controller.
 
Here is the new camera mounting setup for now. I'll probably change something once I get it on the mount (CG5-ASGT yet to come), but this feels pretty good to start with.
 
See the pictures in the gallery to examine the setup.
 
The camera I moved from just being mounted directly onto the plate to a dovetail because I realized that when I switched lenses (of course) the weight distribution changed. So having the camera on a dovetail lets me move the camera back and forth as necessary with the lenses that vary in weight.
 
 
The camera is a stock Canon 1000D XS ($500):
 
The lens is a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM ($600):
 
The guide camera is a Meade DSI Pro (long discontinued - I got it used for $100):
 
The guide scope is a Vixen 7x50 finder (it's short tube is necessary to reach focus - $100):
 
The adapter mechanism between the guide cam and the guide scope is a form of an afocal adapter like this one ($30):
 
Not pictured is the Shoestring GPUSB guide controller interface ($100):
 
The plate is a William Optics Vixen-Style Dovetail Plate ($80):
 
The dovetail saddle holding the camera is a Baader Planetarium NexStar Bracket ($80):
 
The focuser motor is a WalterLee heliFocus Standard (package #3 - $198):
 
The finder is an Orion EZ Finder II red dot reflex finder ($40):
 
The EX Finder is on a Photosolve Extend-a-Sight Plus flash shoe dovetail ($25):
 
Rough total for the components in this section of this setup is $1,855.
 
There is the other section of the setup which is the mount (CG-5 ASGT - $450 used), laptop (MacBook Pro $500 used), software (Nebulosity - $65, PHD $0, Starry Night Pro $150), 2x 12v deep cycle battery (Kirkland 115 AH $90 each), various hubs, splitters, cables, etc ($70) for a rough total of another $1,415 and a combined total of $3,340.
 
It could have been put together for less money, but it's not like I was splurging here. None of these parts are top of the line (or even middle of the line for the most part). The most expensive pieces: the camera, mount and laptop are all the bottom of the barrel and purchased used. The lens (the single most expensive piece) could have been a much cheaper lens, for sure, but I got this lens for daytime family stuff and it happens to be a great AP lens. Even those 4 items only make up 2/3 of the price at $2k. Another $1,300 is in all of the other stuff to make it work (at it's optimum performance for what it is).
 
I guess the bottom line is that this stuff isn't exactly cheap, even when we are doing it on the cheap. I suppose the least expensive way to get gear like this is if you have machining skills and can make some parts. The other thing would be to omit parts that are more "nice to have's" like the belt drive focuser motor and the reflex finder and bracket.


Image Gallery For This Session
IMG 1 IMG 2
IMG 3 IMG 4
IMG 5 IMG 6
   

IMG_1.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
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Comments:
On 03/17/11 at 03:52pm Barry wrote:
This looks something the engine from a Mini Cooper.

On 03/16/11 at 08:49pm Barry wrote:
What, you mean a CG5 has drift? LOL Say it isn't so.

On 03/15/11 at 11:22pm Greg wrote:
Yes, camera rotation makes it more difficult to mount the focus motor. It would have to be attached to the part that rotates (in your case) and might get in the way of rotation. With my 80-200 zoom the lens would stay fixed and only the camera would rotate, so it would be much easier. But I probably want to use other lenses as well and they don't have this feature. BTW, it's a Tamron and is available for both Canon and Nikon mounts. Its best aperture for astro work is f/4. At that aperture it's pretty sharp over the zoom range, but chromatic aberration is much better in the 85 to 100mm range, whereas your lens (at f/5.6) is fairly consistent up to 200mm, getting somewhat worse at 300.

On 03/15/11 at 06:27pm Neil Heacock wrote:
@Barry, Sorry, I should have clarified. I'm referring to drift from frame to frame over a 3 hour period of 5 minute subs.

@Greg, I think you're right and I'll want to incorporate some kind of camera rotator mechanism. If I rotate the camera, I also have to rotate the focuser motor (I think). So I'll have to figure that out.

On 03/15/11 at 01:59pm Greg wrote:
That looks great. I'll have to think about how much of this I want to incorporate in my wide-field setup. The red dot finder, for sure. I haven't tried using a bahtinov mask for short lenses. How well does it work (or not)? I'd rather not use a focus motor if I can avoid it, but it might be necessary to have some way of locking the focus without it. The other big question (which you are also facing) is whether it is worthwhile to add camera rotation. One lens I'll be using is a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom. It has a rotating mounting collar, so that one is easy.


On 03/15/11 at 01:04pm Barry wrote:
Is a 2-3 hour single shot better than multiple 5 minute shots for wide field? Not being critical, just a little confused I guess. Why such long exposures?

On 03/15/11 at 02:41am Neil Heacock wrote:
@Barry, no not really. However, I'd rather guide and keep things where they belong since I'll be shooting wide field shots for hours on end. If I shoot a 3 hour image, I'd rather have it guided then drift over time.

@Brian, thanks. Here's to clear skies for the star party on the first. Cheers!

-Neil

On 03/15/11 at 12:39am Brian wrote:
Very nice setup Neil! Hopefully the skies will clear soon.

Brian

On 03/15/11 at 12:02am Barry wrote:
Neil,
Is guiding really necessary for wide-field shots??



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