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Help selecting a Telescope for viewing & taking photos

Need our opinion on a telescope Optics Planet has on sale, go ahead and ask! Post some hints and tips on various telescope brands and configuration.

Help selecting a Telescope for viewing & taking photos

Postby Count on Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:01 pm

I'm looking for a new telescope for family fun of viewing the Moon, stars, planets, comets & space junk but would also like to try expanding it with taking digital photos with a digital SLR camera like a Canon camera. My daughter likes to take pictures & I have also enjoyed looking into the sky so this would work for both of us.

I'm looking for some help in finding the right telescope to fit our needs, something in a Meade or Celesteron model that will also mount a digital SLR camera to it, something that will meet the needs of both beginner & intermediate skills. I was thinking of something around $200-$400 price range for a telescope. I used to own a Meade ETX-90AT but sold it because the kids found it to hard to use when I wasn't around so they lost interested this was well over 8+ years ago. Well the interest is back & their a lot older now.

So info both pros & cons as well as help getting this started. I'm in the market for both a new Canon digital SLR & a telescope at this time.
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Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:35 pm
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Re: Help selecting a Telescope for viewing & taking photos

Postby Jne_K on Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:16 am

First, I think it's great that you and the family are sharing an interest in astronomy. Good job, Count!

Without trying to discourage, astrophotography is not simple point and shoot photography. It can get very involved and requires a fair degree of knowledge and expertise in not only photography, but also astronomy and use of a telescope. My usual advice, then, is to choose a telescope that is astrophoto ready and proceed to learn the basics of astronomy and how to use the telescope. When have reached the point where you are familiar with the scope and night sky and only when you have become familiar with the scope and the night sky, add a camera and see if astrophotography is for you. Trying to do everything thing at once is just too much. Then, too, you may discover that astrophotography is not for you. A lot of astronomers, myself included, prefer to spend their time at the telescope doing astronomy, rather than trying to take pics. Won't know until you try, though, so as long as you have chosen a telescope that has the potential to be used for astrophotography, that option is open.

Any DSLR will attach to any telescope with commonly available adapters. That's the easy part. It's the mount that makes or breaks a telescope for astrophotography. To do astrophotography you will need a mount with a drive so that the telescope can track objects as they move across the sky during exposures. Traditionally, this means an equatorial mount with motors or a fork mount with motors and possibly a wedge to give it equatorial tracking capability.

You run into problems, though, with motorized telescope mounts at low prices. Most of these are not designed to carry the weight of a DSLR, nor do they track accurately enough for long exposures. In other words, you might have to bump that budget up a bit if you want a mount that is capable of serious astrophotography should you choose to go down that road. I'd start with something like the Celestron Nexstar 4SE, for instance. It has a mount with a built in wedge (needed for equatorial tracking which is needed for long exposure astrophotography), but is a great scope even if you choose not to pursue astrophotography.

As for the DSLR, you cannot possibly go wrong with a Canon Rebel model like the T3to start. It'll do everything you need a DSLR to do and leave you enough money to invest in good lenses. Good lenses are where the money should go. The lenses make the photography, not the camera body.
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