Getting started in astrophotography

The three most basic tools of astrophotography are the mount, the telescope and the camera.  The most important of these is the mount.

Mount: an equatorial mount will most easily track the object you want to photo. Not all equatorial mounts are equal though.  When you decide on your budget for astrophotography, allocate the most to the mount.  If the mount doesn’t track objects in space well, no camera or telescope can get a good image. Telescope Reviews and Classifieds is a great place to look for used equipment. An excellent mount can cost over $10,000 but there are many less expensive used mounts to choose from.  Check out mount reviews to see which is best at your budget level.

Telescope: a telescope suited to your needs is the next important piece of the puzzle. Refractors, reflectors, and catadioptric (SCT for short) are three common types.  Seems that refractors are popular for many planetary, solar and wide field imaging uses. Most refractors have smaller apertures which is fine for those objects as they are bright and don’t need as much light gathering ability. A larger aperture refractor would be very expensive, so when you need to gather more light for distant objects consider an SCT.  An SCT gives a lot of aperture (light gathering ability) for deep space objects like nebula, galaxies and such and a much lower cost than a similar refractor.  Reflectors are the least expensive but don’t lend themselves well to astrophotography for other reasons.

Camera: I have taken astrophotos with my iPhone, with a small point and shoot, with the Canon 20Da and 60Da as well as a number of CCD cooled astro cameras.

The problem with a standard camera, like you have, is that its sensor doesn’t collect the red light in space very well. Specialized cameras do.  It is possible to submit one of your camera’s to a specialty company that will adjust your camera’s sensor to allow it to capture more of the red wave length which is necessary to capture many nebula.

To start out, a specialty camera such as the Canon 60Da which is a great single shot color camera designed for astrophotography.  There are a number of articles out there on it and it would make a great and easy to use camera to get started (and after too – one of my favorites.)  If you need to hold the cost down buy a used Canon 20Da onTelescope Reviews and Classifieds . It was the predecessor to the 60Da.  The nice thing about the Canon camera’s is that you can take photo’s and do no post processing and get a decent image like this:

Or by combining a small number of images in an inexpensive program Nebulosity 3 (which can be downloaded online) you’ll get an image like this:

Those are some of my thoughts.  It’s a great hobby and you’ll never stop learning.  Techniques and technology are changing so quickly. Good luck!

Steven Schlagel