Astro Gear deep space hardware

Astro Rig v1.0

This is a blog post on version v1.0 of my rig starting hardware is a Sky-Watcher EQM-35 mount, William Optics RedCat51 Upgraded Astro Telecopse, and stock a Nikon DSLR

Sky-Watcher EQM-35 Review

Astro Rig v2.0

In this setup, I added the ZWO ASI Air Kit. More information is listed in the following blog post below.

Shooting Stars M33

Astro Rig v3.0

Once again I upgraded my mount one more time this time with the ZWO Electronic Auto Focuser. It makes focusing on the stars just too easy. Here is a blog post on EAF and also a blog post on a full video walk through of my Astro RIG.

ZWO EAF / RedCat 51

ZWO ASI Air Demo

 

Astro Rig v4.0

Once again I upgraded my mount this time with the ZWO ASI533MC Pro dedicated Astro camera. What a difference with the camera over my Nikon D5500 DSLR! More details are listed in the following blog post

ZWO ASI533MC Pro

iOptron SkyGuider Pro w/ iPolor (returned)

I used this setup for a few days with my Red Cat 51 while it may work for a people I am not sure it’s worth the spend, I will explain in more detail below. In the picture to the left, I have the following:

Camera: Nikon D5500
Optics: RedCat 51
Base Mount: William Optics Low Latitude Vixen-style Base Mount & Extension Bar
Mount: iOptron Skyguider Pro w/ iPolar
Tripod: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100

On top of the camera, I am using a ULANZI Universal Phone Tripod Mount with a Motorola Nexus 6 and a StartSense Explorer 3d printed mod to use the Celestron StarSense Explorer app. I was excited about this setup but it didn’t work out in the end as the Alta Pro tripod couldn’t handle the weight so I sent back the WO Low Latitude Vixen-Style base and iOptron Skyguider Pro and upgraded to a different mount.

Now just to stress something here, this is a good setup and it works for a lot of users. If you go to YouTube you will find a lot of users explaining how they love this setup and it allows them to track the stars easily and they can move this very light setup from one location to another very easily. I am sure when it was all said and done if I would have waited for a new Tripod this too may have been a solid setup for me as well. Sadly I didn’t wait for the upgraded tripod for a couple of reasons, the biggest being price. If anyone that knows anything about astrophotography they will tell you that this is an expensive hobby. Just call the OPT (800) 483-6287 number and while you are on hold they say the exact same thing and say they offer lots of financing to help you enjoy this hobby. At the point of buying the mount and parts and new tripod I was pushing $991.79 this price does not include the used Nikon D5500 or the RedCat 5, oh no dear reader I have over $2K invested in this little hobby of shooting the stars.

I don’t tell you this to brag I tell you this as a buyer beware! This is not a cheap hobby and is quickly adding up as I want to continue to take more pictures of the skies and continue to tweak my setup. From the hardware to software, to time outside it’s a lot of money and also a lot of dedication! Sadly there is not a cheap way to get into this hobby. Maybe a cheap DSLR and homemade barn door is a good start but depending on the DSLR you are talking $200-$400 plus materials to build the barn door and that doesn’t include the tripod. The bottom line is the iOptron is a good starting point but I think if you can invest the extra money into a more robust mount I would do it, especially if you plan to grow in this hobby with better gear over time.