SA and other new kit

8 months 5 days ago - 8 months 5 days ago #108313 by JohnMurphy
SA and other new kit was created by JohnMurphy
I've purchased some new kit to get back into Astrophotography, I had dropped off the scene for the last 10 years or so and was spending most of my spare time on Nature photography etc..
I'll review some of the kit once I get a chance to use it some clear sky night, hopefully soon. Sorry to all if I've brought the cloudy rain gods to the fore after purchasing this new kit.
I've been using a 7D MkII for some years now and it is truly awesome for wildlife photography, I normally use a Sigma 150-500 lens for this. The lens in the photo attached is the EF 24-105 F4 L IS USM and is a decent choice for AP, though I am thinking of getting a fast doublet or triplet about 250mm FL or so.

In the photo attached is:
1. Canon EOS 7D MKII
2. EF 24-105 F4 L IS USM
3. Skywatcher Star Adventurer Pro Kit with the tripod
4. Astrokraken polar illuminator
5. Neewer intervalometer
6. Windfire Red LED hunting torch
7. Pair of kneepads (for polar alignment)

Awaiting delivery next week of a USB powered lens warmer, a 20Kg capable ballhead, and a Starwave Bahtinov Mask.


Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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8 months 4 days ago #108314 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Hi Mike,

Between you and Paul buying lots of nice astro goodies lately, all this bad weather is making much more sense now : )

I'm very much looking forward to seeing your photographs over the the coming weeks & months, and by going by the images I saw on your website, I'm sure we're in for a treat....I really like the Wicklow ones, particularly the ones at Lough Ouler. I love that spot! 

Clear skies, 

Darren. 
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8 months 1 day ago - 8 months 1 day ago #108335 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
Latest arrivals are the ball-head  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PM2SX5C?ref_=pe_3...367563291_E_304_dt_1
Lens-Warmer  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075XJCKD1/ref=pe_3187911_189395841_TE_dp_2  
and Bahtinov Mask  ktectelescopes.ie/starwave-bahtinov-mask...8IDgA2BoCwmUQAvD_BwE
I am still awaiting the final delivery, a 30000 mAh powerbank to power the lens-warmer and the Star Adventurer  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PVY7TH6/ref=pe_3187911_189395841_TE_dp_1

First impressions:
The ball-head is better than I had hoped, not as heavy as I expected (which is good). It is solid and provides very stable mounting of a heavy DSLR, Battery Grip, and Lens. The mounting plate and quick release will be more familiar to telescope owners than photographers. It is solid, no play, there is zero movement when locked in place - this is essential for AP and I can't help feel it was designed by someone into AP, as all the controls will be intuitive to a scope user. I have removed the DEC Fine Adjustment piece from the SA L bracket and replaced it with this ball-head as It will give me better options for framing shots. Oh, and there is a bonus, if you've looked at the link above, the ball-head is a very close colour match to the SA green :-), not that it matters in the dark, but it does tie everything in.
Lens-warmer: I now realise that the lens-warmer is going to occlude access to the focusing ring of the lens. There are always trade-offs, and I'm going to have to live with this one (unless I get it to work with an electronic focuser - next project). No chance yet to use it in anger, will report later on usage.
Bahtinov mask: I made a bahtinov mask by hand more than 11 years ago for my 8" newt. I just hope this one does the same trick and remove the vagaries of focusing. I'll report later when I get a chance to test it.

The only real chance I've had to test so far is the following single frame shot in a cloudy sky in south county Wexford. 
File Attachment:
Orion-2020-02-01
Single frame processed in Lightroom
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
ƒ/4.0 24.0 mm 51sec ISO1600

I know there is coma/barrel distortion at the corners, and this could have been dealt with by stopping down to F5.6. This should not be apparent when using this lens at the long end 105mm. We'll find out in the next installment :-)

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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7 months 4 weeks ago #108344 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
Oooops, my finger "accidentally" slipped on the keyboard last night and I "accidentally" purchased a used EF 70-200 F4 USM lens for my 7D MkII. I had been thinking about buying something like an Astrocat 51, but I'll get more use out of a lens I can use for daylight photography also. 
MTF chart:  www.eflens.com/ef-lenses/ef_70-200_f4l_usm.html
Sorry if this angers the cloud gods, but as I purchased prior to Storm Jorge, maybe it'll already be accommodated. By the end of next week I should have a completely portable set up, then the hard work starts - provided I get some clear skies. :-)

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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7 months 3 weeks ago #108356 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Hi John, 

I very much liked reading your review of your new equipment, and the ball head seems like it was a great purchase. Great photo of Orion too. 


Keep them coming!

Clear skies, 

Darren. 
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7 months 2 weeks ago - 7 months 2 weeks ago #108388 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
So, the last of the kit has arrived, and I put it together last night to make sure everything worked.
The complete list is now:
EOS 7D Mk2 (already had for some time now)
EF 70-200mm F4 L USM with a lens collar for balance
Lens warmer (dew heater)
Skywatcher Star Adventurer Pro Kit with the tripod
20Kg capable Ballhead
Astrokraken polar illuminator
Bahtinov mask
Wildfire Red LED torch
30,000mAh powerbank (powers warmer and mount)
Neewer Intervalometer
The complete kit (apart from camera and lens) all fits into a fishing bag (below mount) which I'd purchased in Lidl some years ago for a fiver.

So, I'm off to Wexford tomorrow for 4 nights, hope to get something, but even if the skies aren't great at least I'll get some practice. Monday or Tuesday night might be OK, and if not South Wexford is a great base for photography anyway. 

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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7 months 1 week ago #108390 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Hi John, sounds like you have a great set-up. And it's neat how it all fits into the fishing bag.

Best of luck in Wexford and hopefully you'll capture some nice photos next week for us to view. 

Clear skies, 

Darren. 

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7 months 1 week ago - 7 months 1 week ago #108417 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
Thanks Darren -
I managed to get a couple of hours practice on Sunday night. The mount and kit worked better than I had expected. I got a very good polar alignment done in very quick time. The Astrokraken polar illuminator allowed me to do a polar alignment with all the gear mounted, so I didn't have to touch the mount after the alignment. After a couple of hours use, Polaris was still in the circle and in the right spot. This was also evident in the RAW files in that every frame was practically identical right out to the edges and very few frames had to be discarded. The intervalometer also worked a treat, for less than €20 this is one piece of kit that is essential, I was able to start imaging and come back every 30 mins or so to check on things. The lens warmer also worked brilliantly keeping the lens free of dew for the whole evening. The power bank also did the job using less than 20% to power the mount and the lens warmer for the 2.5 hours I was out. 
Now, if only I was better at post processing, pretty dismal effort :-( . This is something that is going to take time, practice and a whole lot of reading and on-line tutorials. The shot below was pre-processed in DSS with lights, darks, flats, dark flats and bias frames. About 30 mins total integration - ISO1600 51 sec frames @ F4.5 (I think I can push this to 90 sec next time as the mount is behaving well). The shot is cropped.

File Attachment:
M45-2020_03_15  

Click on the image for a better rendition and zoom-in on Flickr.

After a bit of work on the second image of the evening I think I may be heading in the right direction. Bear in mind I am only using Lightroom for post processing. This is a an uncropped image which shows how well tracking etc was performing, and how well the lens operates stopped down to F4.5, from F4 max. Check out stars in the corners. I am a bit happier with processing on this one, though I know I have a long way to go :-)

File Attachment:
Alnitak a, Flame & Horsehead Nebulae by John Murphy , on Flickr

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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7 months 1 week ago #108419 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic SA and other new kit
Spectacular image of M45 Pleiades, John!
Including the Merope nebula.
I greatly admire the spikes around the bright stars.
What a start!
It's all been worth it.

Clear skies,

Aubrey.
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7 months 1 week ago #108422 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Hi Michael,

Very many thanks for posting the first image with your new set-up. It's a really nice shot of the 'Seven Sisters', and as Aubrey said the nebulosity surrounding Merope looks fantastic.

Congrats, and clear skies,

Darren.
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7 months 1 week ago #108424 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
@Darren, @Aubrey,
I posted a second image above of the Flame Nebula, have a look, I think this one's better, and may redeem my processing shortcomings, though I know I have a long way to go........... Thanks for taking an interest, and maybe we'll meet up sometime again in the Wicklow Mountains or at the Sugarloaf :-)

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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7 months 1 week ago #108426 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Hi John,

Very nice image of the Flame Nebula - I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to astrophotography, so it is difficult to judge things like post-processing work,but to me both images are great.

Meeting up at the Sugar Loaf is a wonderful way to get to know other people in the community. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, but they're also only too happy share their knowledge. I can't praise them enough. They have helped me develop my interest in the hobby, and are a constant source of inspiration.

Once this whole thing passes, I'm sure we'll all be eager to get back under the dark skies of County Wicklow.

All the best,

Darren.

BTW, apologies for calling you Michael in my last message - I really need to go to bed a bit earlier!
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6 months 1 week ago - 5 months 3 weeks ago #108676 by JohnMurphy
Replied by JohnMurphy on topic SA and other new kit
Trying to redeem my processing skills, and although there is still so much wrong with this, haloes et. etc. I think this is a better image cropped from the one above. 
File Attachment:
Alnitak, Flame and Horshead - reprocessed by John Murphy , on Flickr

Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
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6 months 1 week ago #108682 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic SA and other new kit
Lovely image John, those stars really pop out from black sky... Great stuff!

Clear skies, 

Darren. 
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