Updated: Jan 25
There is an infinite amount of astrophotography setup combinations. Most beginners who just got their first telescope start imaging the night sky with an affordable mount and a used DSLR camera. But what does one's rig look like after years of upgrades and tweaks? Find out what our "advanced" astrophotography setup looks like below!
Not so long ago, we made a video and written post about what a beginner DSLR Astrophotography set up looks like. Every individual piece that made up that setup was shown, including the price. Here, we will do the same but this time for a more advanced setup. The telescope will be larger, the camera will be a monochrome camera instead of a DSLR, and accessories will differ.
The rig below is of course more expensive than the one previously shown, but we want to emphasis on the fact that you do NOT need a rig like this one to take incredible images of the night sky. Sure, it helps, especially the camera, but most of these fancy pieces are mostly there to make our life easier (ex: auto-focuser, auto-rotator, usb hub...).
If you wish to dig deeper, we have a full guide about the best beginner astrophotography equipment you can read, as well as a full tutorial post about how to start astrophotography. You can also become a lifetime member of The Galactic Course to get unlimited access to a growing realm of astrophotography content!
The Stellarvue SVX130 is by far the best refractor telescope we have ever had the chance to use! The one we currently have belongs to our friend Mark, which we cannot thank enough for trusting us with his instrument.
The one we use came with a Moonlite focuser/rotator (more info on that later) which adds a lot of weight to the telescope. Due to that is is relatively heavy and can be difficult to place on the doveplate of your mount if you are not cautious. When extended, the dew shield makes this telescope much longer as well and the setup looks really impressive when it is ready.
Aperture: 5.12" (130mm)
Focal Length: 910mm | 655mm with reducer
Focal Ratio: f/7 | f/5 with reducer
Optical Design: Apochromatic Refractor
Number of refractor elements: 4
Tube weight: 19.6lbs
Tube length: 29.5"
The Software Bisque Paramount MyT mount is in our opinion the most beautiful mount that ever roamed this earth. It has a ton of features that make both tracking and cable management a breeze, and has a slightly better payload capacity than our Atlas EQ-G mount while keeping the exact same weight and portability.
Thank you Oceanside Photo & Telescope for loaning us this mount!
You can read our review of the MyT mount to learn more about it.
Manufacturer: Software Bisque
Payload Capacity: 50 lb
The camera shown in the video is a ZWO ASI1600MM, the most popular astronomy monochrome camera in the world, at least from its release to 2021.
If we had to buy a camera today, it would most likely be one of these two. The ASI1600MM is a classic, but it is indeed starting to get a little old in the astrophotography world. For the price though, you can't go wrong with that camera!
The images below were all taken with the ZWO ASI1600MM camera
THE ELECTRONIC FILTER WHEEL AND FILTERS
This is the electronic filter wheel that matches well with the ZWO ASI1600MM camera. It has 8 slots and can hold 31mm/1.25" filters. This size of filters is perfect for APS-C (cropped sensor) cameras like the ASI1600MM. If you plan on using a full frame camera, you would instead need a filter wheel with 2" slots.
The camera also comes in a pack that includes the filter wheel and all required filters (L, R, G, B, Ha, Sii, and Oiii).
THE AUTO-GUIDING SOLUTION
On this setup we prefer to use an Off-Axis-guider over a guide scope. An OAG ensures that we do not have differential flexure (meaning the guide scope slightly moves due to gravity) which is especially important when you have a telescope with a long focal length. We use the ZWO OAG when imaging with our cropped sensor ASI1600MM camera. We only use our guide scope if we image with a full frame camera as these require a larger OAG to avoid any vignetting.
Our favorite guide camera is the ZWO ASI290MM Mini as it provides fast communication with the laptop without dropping any frame.
For an advanced setup like this one where you need to power several things all at once, you really need to make sure that you take a good strong battery with you on the field. If you are imaging from home, you can simply plug it all into the power outlet in your backyard and not worry about a portable battery, but you should still know what you would need if you ever decide to head out to image under darker skies.
Our main battery for this setup is a 100AH deep cycle battery. For comparison, the deep cycle battery we used for our beginner setup is 35AH. We also connect an inverter on top of it so that we can directly plug the mount and surge protector into the outlet.
We use this battery/inverter combination to power:
The filter wheel (The ZWO 1.25" EFW does not need external power but our 2" QHY one does when we image with a full frame camera)
Price: $275 for the battery | $85 for the inverter
The Stellarvue SVX130 telescope has an option to come with an electronic focuser already attached to it. Mark did purchase that version and so the scope came with the Moonlite NiteCrawler Auto-focuser / Rotator (yes, it does both).
This is an absolutely insane product that is considered one of the best on the market. Unlike many auto-focusers out there, this one has zero backlash, making auto-focusing when you're asleep in your bed very easy as it consistently work every time. The only downside is that it is very heavy, bulky, and has a pop-up screen that, to us, seems completely useless.
ACCESSORIES ON TOP OF THE TELESCOPE
To make our life easier, we decided to attach a Radian dovetail on the top of our telescope. This allows us to add several accessories of our choice easily. We currently have two things on that dovetail:
A finder shoe: This allows us to use a guide scope with this telescope.
A USB hub: The USB hub connects to the mount which is in turn connected to our laptop. The imaging camera, guide camera, filter wheel and focuser can be connected to that hub.
This is optional, but if you'd like to make your life easier, the QHY Polemaster is a great device to achieve really good polar alignment in just a couple of minutes.
There are other tools for polar alignment nowadays, like the ASIAir or Sharpcap, but the Polemaster is our favorite.
We usually polar align as soon as it gets dark, then remove the Polemaster from the mount and start imaging.
Read our review: QHY Polemaster: Does it really make a difference?
Below is the video walkthrough of the entire setup, which might help you visualize how every piece connects with each other!
This was what we call our advanced astrophotography setup. It is heavier than our beginner setup, pricier, and has more cables, but it for sure is fun to use!
The main difference between this setup and our DSLR beginner setup (besides the camera) is the accessories that make our life easier.
The focuser/rotator is such a nice addition that will be difficult to live without in the future, and the dovetail on top of the telescope is great to have to be able to add several accessories at anytime.
We have several other guides related to astrophotography equipment, so make sure to check those out if you are still unsure about what to get as a first rig! Some are linked below: