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Astrophotography Equipment For Beginners

Astrophotography is an engaging and educational activity. The people who are in love with the night sky view always look for a scope to take photos of the nebula, comet, or galaxy. But it is quite hard to master astrophotography. And beginner astronomers find it difficult to cope up with this situation.

Keeping that fact in mind, we have designed this article for beginners. This article is for those who want to do astrophotography at a very modest cost, with the essential equipment a beginner can provide. With the experts' help and Michael A. Covington’s book “Astrophotography for the Amateur” we have designed this article.



Types Of Astrophotography



Night Sky Photography


Night Sky Photography

Night sky photography is the most simplified type of photography. It is like taking photographs of a night sky with the presence of stars, nebulae, and galaxies. You can take night sky photographs with a camera that has a bulb setting, a tripod, and a mount. For a better result, you must use a telescope and good quality lenses specially made for astrophotography.


Piggyback Astrophotography


Piggyback Astrophotography
Image Source: hrastro.com

Piggyback astrophotography is not as simple as the previous one. A telescope is a must for this method. You need to use the telescope to track your object in the sky, and you have to shoot the object with your camera. The piggyback astrophotography requires the lens of your camera. If you can not mount your telescope correctly, then you won’t be great in this field.


Prime Focus Astrophotography


Prime Focus Astrophotography
Image Source: cloudynights.com

The most amazing fact about this Prime focus astrophotography is that you can take pictures of anything you want with this method. Because this method uses the lens of the telescope while the piggyback requires the camera lens, it is better to use a large telescope for prime focus astrophotography.


Afocal Astrophotography


Afocal Astrophotography

If you are interested in taking photographs of larger bodies in the sky, such as the sun, moon, or other brighter planets, afocal astrophotography is your cup of tea. In this method, you need to focus your target on the eyepiece of your telescope. Mount your camera lens over the eyepiece. And then just click your favorite photographs. 


Eyepiece Projection Astrophotography


Eyepiece Projection Astrophotography

Eyepiece projection astrophotography is quite similar to the afocal astrophotography method. You need to use an eyepiece to zoom on your desired subject. The eyepiece is joined with the camera and the telescope. This photography method is a little bit trickier than other astrophotography methods.



Choosing Astrophotography Equipment



You need a camera, or you can use a telescope for your astrophotography session. But make sure that you have chosen the device that you know well. According to the book Astrophotography for the Amateur By Michael A. Covington, it is clearly stated,

Never buy a telescope or camera unless you understand what it will do for you and how it will do it. Always educate yourself first, because the equipment doesn't take the pictures; you do.

Source: cambridge.org

So buy the device you know better. And also, give yourself some time to study both astronomy and photography as you are a beginner. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment like the pro photographers. All you need are basic things like a good DSLR, a tripod, or a telescope to start your own astrophotography session. 


Things you need for astrophotography:

  1. Camera
  2. Lenses
  3. Telescope
  4. Mount
  5. Camera Tripod
  6. Remote Release
  7. T-Mount Adapter
  8. Light-Pollution Filter
  9. Power
  10. Anti-Dewers
  11. Software
  12. Telescope bag

Camera


DSLR Camera

Although regular cameras do not come with significant advantages for astrophotography, you can start your astrophotography with this as a beginner. These days there are a lot of digital cameras in the markets. You can go for a good one. 

It's better to buy a DSLR for your astrophotography session. They are way more flexible than other types of cameras. And DSLR cameras come in a wide range of prices. Also, you can use them for various purposes, along with astrophotography. 

If you have a DSLR camera to work with, you can easily pair it out with your telescope. Just take off the lens of the camera and hook it up with your telescope directly. We suggest you use DSLR from well-known camera brands like Nikkon and Canon

Canon T7i (800D) body only ($700), Nikon D5600 body only ($700), Canon 6D ($1,500) Full Frame ,Canon 7D Mark II ($1,600) ,Nikon D810a ($3,800) Full Frame are some models those are worth to buy for astrophotography. But if you can afford a high-budget camera, we suggest using the Nikon D810a model because it gives the best result in astrophotography. 


Lenses


Camera Lens

The lenses that come with your camera are not good enough for astrophotography. But many camera lenses can give you a great result. We suggest you buy Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens, Nikon AF NIKKOR 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens for your sky photography session.


Telescope

Telescope

“Most celestial objects require magnification; that’s one reason we use telescopes,” wrote Michael A. Covington in his book “Astrophotography for the Amateur.” 

Well,  how important are telescopes in the field of astrophotography? Telescopes come first when an astronomer wants to observe the sky and the universe. 

Now, you may find it confusing to choose a telescope for you because the market is full of many varieties of telescopes. Some astronomers or astrophotographers suggest buying a larger telescope for regular visualization.  Larger telescopes are better because they can gather more light, and you can get a good view of the faint astronomical objects. 

But when it comes to astrophotography, you do not need a massive telescope for that. As a beginner, start your astrophotography session with a small telescope. Our expert team suggests a tiny telescope. A 65mm or 80mm refractor is best.

If you use a larger telescope, you will need a larger mount to hold your telescope. And it will cost you extra bucks to pay off. So start your entry-level astrophotography with a small telescope. You can choose the Astromaster 114EQ refractor telescope because this telescope will provide you with the best result in its price range. 


Mount 


Telescope Mount

It is crucial to buy a high-quality mount for your telescope or your camera. Spend a little bit extra on the mount. There are two types of mounts available in the market. One is an altazimuth mount, and the other one is an equatorial mount.

The altazimuth mount is designed so that it can move both altitude and azimuth at the same time so that you can easily track the sky. This kind of mount is quite useful to observe the sky, but the performance is not that much satisfying when it comes to astrophotography. 

The equatorial mount helps to track the sky with motion in the right ascension axis. This type of mount is just perfect for long-exposure astrophotography. And this is the reason why we suggest you have an equatorial mount for your astrophotography. 


Camera tripod


Camera Tripod

As we have told you earlier in this article, you can start astrophotography with a regular DSLR camera and some lenses exclusively made for astrophotography. 

If you take the camera to shoot the nebulae, milky way, or the night sky, you need something to hold the camera for you at the right angle. And nothing can be proved as a better option than a camera tripod. 

These tripods are specially made to hold cameras. Our expert team suggests you buy a tripod and a remote release because that would be much easier and convenient for you. 


Remote release


Remote release

A remote release is an essential thing if you are using a camera for astrophotography. Pressing the camera’s shutter can create a high chance to shake your camera, and you may get blurry photos. But if you use a remote release instead, you will be able to take pictures without touching your camera. And it will help you to get clear and perfect astrophotos. 


T- mount adapter


T- mount adapter

To attach your camera to the telescope, you need a t-mount adapter. The t-mount adapter has a unique bayonet mount that has been designed specifically for your brand of camera. 


Light pollution filter


Light pollution filter

Light pollution is a widespread thing when you try to take astrophotos in the city area. Stray light can make your picture look dull, and you may feel disheartened by the quality of your photos. 

So it is a wise decision to use a light pollution filter for astrophotography. Light pollution filters block the stray lights and help you to capture the gems of the night sky, the beauty of the night sky. 


Power 


Telescope Portable Power Supply

Well, you need a power supply to run your astrophotography hunt for quality time. Try to get a portable power supply system from the nearest store. Otherwise, you can do a DIY project for yourself. But it would be better if you use a power supply specifically designed for astrophotography by professionals. 


Anti-dewers


Anti-dewers

We can not change the weather, and we can not skip dew drops on the lens unless we are in a desert. The temperature falls at night, and you will get dew drops on the glass of your lenses or your telescope. And then you will not be able to take clear photos, and also it will make your optics blurry. So it is essential to get an anti-dewer for your astrophotography device because it will prevent your optic from gathering dews and maintain your device’s quality performance. 


Softwares 

Using software helps you find the stars or other celestial objects in short, and this is a straightforward technique that you can use for your astrophotography. But it is essential to see the items by yourself. 


Telescope bag


Telescope bag

Although a telescope bag has nothing to do with your astrophotography, it is very important to have a bag. You won't have to worry about your lenses, telescope, or camera if you carry a telescope bag on an astrophotography tour. You will find a lot of bags in the market. Try to buy a good one within your budget. It is better to choose a multi-purpose shock-absorbing bag to carry your equipment. Then you will be able to carry all your necessary equipment without causing harm to those things.


Equipment: Camera capable of time exposures, fast 50-mm lens, tripod, latching cable release. 

Film: Colour slide film, 200-1600 speed. The print film can be used to obtain custom prints; automatic machines are likely to be disappointing. 

Sky conditions: Clear moonless night. Some city lights are tolerable as long as stars are visible. No lights should shine directly on the observing site. 

Procedure: Place the camera on the tripod and aim it at a bright group of stars in the sky. Set the lens opening to f/1.8 or f/2 and focus on infinity. Expose for 20 seconds. 

So this is how you will get a perfect astrophotograph taken by yourself using your own devices. 



What Kinds of Pictures Can You Take?



Astrophotography is a method that allows you to capture the sky objects day and night time. You can take photos of your favorite star or galaxy. Click pictures of the sun, moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Not only that, you can take pictures of nebulae and star clusters as well. 



Some Astrophotography Tips 



  1. Always use a branded DSLR camera to take photos.
  2. Use a camera timer or a remote release. 
  3. Be attentive to your focus. 
  4. Do not use a lens with scratches. 
  5. Try to use a light pollution filter. 
  6. Mount the lens or the telescope in the proper way. 

What equipment do I need for astrophotography?

The basic things you need for astrophotography are- Camera, lenses, telescope, mount, camera tripod, remote release, T-Mount adapter, light-Pollution Filter, power supply, anti-dewers, and astronomy software (if you can not point the celestial objects clearly). You can use a regular DSLR camera with specific lenses designed especially for astronomy for astrophotography. 


Which telescope is the best for astrophotography in the beginning? 

In the beginning, you can use a small telescope to take photos. A 65mm or 80mm refractor is best. We suggest you use the Celestron Astromaster 114Eq Newtonian telescope. 

If you want to use a little larger telescope, go for the Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor telescope. Visit our article on this telescope to know more about it. 


Do I need to modify my DSLR for astrophotography?

Modifying your DSLR camera for astrophotography is not necessary to get a good result. You can use a regular DSLR from Canon or Nikon brand. But do use special lenses made especially for astrophotography to get clear photos of the night sky. 


What do I need for deep sky astrophotography?

For deep-sky astrophotography, you need the basic equipment of astrophotography. You need a DSLR camera, lenses, telescope, mount, camera tripod, a remote release, a t-mount adapter, light-pollution filter, power, anti-dewers, software to take pictures. Also, you need a  telescope bag to carry all this equipment. 



Conclusion  



Spending some time with your telescope and discovering the gems in the night sky is truly a relaxing thing that gives you peace of mind. It is more satisfying to take some photos of the night sky with stars and nebulae and comets. All you need to know is some necessary equipment to handle your astrophotography to another level so that you can share it with your friends or describe it scientifically.

Follow our article as a beginner in the astronomy field to astrophotographs. If you wish to know something more or have any recommendations for us, please leave your words in the comment box. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

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