Updated: Jun 8
If you have ever wondered what gear we used to do in astrophotography from the start until now, you'll find it here in this post! Before you go any further, please be sure to read our Beginner's Guide to Astrophotography Equipment for all the information you need about starting this hobby.
Below you will find a list of our complete equipment, as well as where to purchase them and how much each piece of equipment costs. Watch our "Complete Astrophotography Equipment on the Field" video if you'd like to see how it all looks together in the desert (before our January 2019 upgrade).
Our first telescope and mount, without cables
Astrophotography is easy, as long as you have basic knowledge of how to use a camera. You can attach any DSLR camera to a tripod, aim it at a beautiful part of the sky like the Milky Way, take a 30-second shot of it, and tell all your friends you are now officially an astrophotographer. Congratulations! It is that simple!
Now, when it is time to upgrade to a deep-sky astrophotography rig, things will get trickier... well, unless you want to use smart telescopes like Unistellar's EVscope or Vaonis' Stellina that allow you to capture deep-sky objects in the press of a button.
We started out with a Canon Powershot Point and Shoot camera and our photos were... bad, to say the least. However, it did help us practice lunar imaging along with our 20x80 binoculars. You can read about how we got started in our about us post to learn how we got to where we are now.
We loved this new hobby, so we quickly upgraded to a DSLR camera (a cheap, used Canon T3i bought on eBay) and used that, a $20 intervalometer from Amazon, all on top of our binoculars' tripod as our new "Astro rig." We used this to get our first image of another galaxy (M31) and our first nebula (M42).
You can say we were enamored and started debating whether we should use most of our savings to purchase a complete astrophotography setup. We were younger and didn't have a lot, so we thought about it for a few weeks... then said, "Yeah let's do it!"
Little did we know, it would take us weeks to decide what to get. We did not have any friends that knew anything about telescopes or astronomy in general, and honestly, we had no clue where to get started! So we turned to Reddit and Instagram! Astrophotographers often post their acquisition details along with the equipment they used in the description of their astrophotos (something we now do as well!). We started compiling a list of what we thought we needed to purchase, hoping we did not forget any important pieces. Our initial budget was $1,700 - for everything...
And the shopping cart ended up totaling $2,756.93 (note that several of these prices have now been lowered). YIKES. The most expensive part was the mount, but we knew this would be useful to us in the long term so we went with it anyway and got the Atlas EQ-G over the Sirius EQ-G to ensure it could support our telescope and all the accessories for sure.
The list had a total of 9 items. We later realized that the 2" Zero-Profile adapter was not needed as we would already be using the Coma Corrector as an adapter. This saved us $32, better than nothing!
If you made it this far, thanks because it was a long intro. Now, let's get to our list of equipment!
Dalia aiming our T3i at our Orion telescope
1) Our Main Camera for Wide-Field Astrophotography: Canon Ra
The camera we use for wide-field astrophotography with a lens is the Canon EOS Ra. This is an upgrade from our cheap Canon T3i which we used in Episodes #1 through #4 and our Canon 7D Mark II which we used until 2020.
This camera is really great for capturing objects in the night sky, especially emission nebulae as it was built specifically for astrophotography and comes with an infrared filter that allows more hydrogen-alpha signal to reach the sensor.
The Canon Ra is easy to use and can yield awesome results no matter the target. Because it is a mirrorless camera, it is much lighter than our previous Canon 7D Mark II. When shooting, we do not plug this camera into any laptop but instead go the "good old way" and use a cheap intervalometer.
This is also the camera we use to film all of our episodes, do time-lapses, and even do daytime photography.
You can get it on Amazon. Example of images taken with this camera:
2) Our Cooled Monochrome Camera for Astrophotography: QHY600M
The QHY600M has been our dream camera for years, and we are thankful to be able to use it when imaging in narrowband! This is the most amazing camera and our main monochrome camera after upgrading from the ASI1600MM - which has been discontinued.
We would absolutely recommend this and you can find out why in our full review of the QHY600 camera!
Example of images taken with this camera:
NGC 2359 - Thor's Helmet
IC 434 - The Horsehead Nebula
IC 405 and IC 410 - The Flaming Star and Tadpoles Nebulae
NGC 7635 - The Bubble Nebula
3) Our Cooled One-Shot-Color Camera for Astrophotography: ZWO ASI2600MC
The ZWO ASI2600MC is the most popular cropped sensor OSC camera out there, and we love it! We love it and it's the best camera to image galaxies, clusters, and other objects that are great RGB targets.
1) 8" Newtonian Astrograph
The first telescope we used for nearly all of our imaging sessions was the 8" Newtonian Astrograph. It was really cheap ($499) but this type of reflector is rising in price each year! We consider it an amazing entry-level telescope. It is fantastic for photographing deep-sky objects and it does a great job for visual observations as well!
Update: We no longer own this telescope because we gave it away to our good friend Diana (@vanillamoon_astro on Instagram), who is doing a wonderful job of capturing beautiful images with it. Watch the video below to see her reaction and learn more about Diana. She is also a founding member of STELA - Striving To Engage Ladies in Astrophotography.
2) Askar FRA500
This is the main small refractor telescope we use to capture large objects. It is a fantastic beginner telescope that can be used with both cropped sensors and full-frame cameras.
This is also the telescope we use at home and we love it. It is part of our perfect travel setup because it's so portable - along with our newest mount the ZWO AM5.
3) Stellarvue SVX130T
The Stellarvue SVX130T is the beloved monster we keep at our remote observatory.
It is also the main telescope for capturing most deep-sky objects. It is heavy and difficult to carry around unlike our Askar, but has an incredible quality being made by Stellarvue. Its focal length is 644mm when using the field flattener, and has a speed of f/5.
Fun fact: Stella's nickname is Stellarvue.
Image Acquisition Devices
1) Mini PC (Nuc)
In general, we use either our laptop or a mini PC to take astrophotos. This Intel Nuc is attached to our SVX130 and is directly connected to all accessories such as the camera, the mount, the focuser, and more. It is powerful enough to image all night and save 60MP frames!
We use the AnyDesk remote connection software to connect to the Nuc using WiFi.
Note: We have a small TP-Link WiFi router attached to the top of the Nuc.
2) ZWO ASIASIR Plus
This is what we use when we image with a ZWO camera: The ASIAir Plus!
This lightweight device allows you to connect to your ZWO camera and capture everything on the included SD card! You do not need a laptop as you can control everything right from your phone or tablet via WiFi (even from the desert with no connection whatsoever).
You can also connect this device directly to your mount and guide camera to slew your telescope and use auto-guiding.
Mounts and Tripods
1) Motorized GO-TO MOUNT
The ZWO AM5 is our current primary astrophotography mount. Right off the bat, it is a life-changing mount for us after years of owning and handling bulky and heavy mounts. Sorry, Atlas EQ-G!
We highly recommend this mount to every beginner astrophotographer!
This is the mount we turn to whenever we image from home or out on the field with a small refractor telescope or a DSLR camera and lenses!
This incredibly small and lightweight piece of astrophotography gear will be a staple for us for years to come - or until the newest version comes out. We're looking at you AM3.
Astrophotography equipment review: Read and watch our full review of the AM5!
2) 10Micron GM1000HPS
The 10Micron GM1000HPS mount is our primary mount when using a heavy telescope. This was a gift from our awesome friend Mark and we can never thank him enough for this incredible gesture.
The GM1000HPS is heavier than the Atlas EQ-G mount, but the benefit of this mount is that it has true encoders and an overall superb design. The mount has been working flawlessly so far and is true perfection.
You can watch our unboxing video below!
3) Star Tracker: The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro
It may seem that we are wholly committed to advanced gear, but we aren't so big that we can't appreciate the simple things. The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro is one of those pieces of astrophotography equipment that we'll never let go of.
Plus, it is easy to set up and is a perfect fit for our carbon fiber tripod (see below).
4) DSLR Camera tripods
We own three DSLR camera tripods for our Canon 7D Mark II and Canon Ra.
The main one is a carbon fiber tripod, which we use anytime we take wide-field pictures of the Milky Way or other parts of the sky. We use this tripod for both untracked and tracked wide-field astrophotography as we can easily attach a star tracker on the top.
Next, we have the Orion Paragon-Plus XHD Extra Heavy-Duty Tripod which came with our heavy 20x80 binoculars. We highly suggest buying a heavy-duty tripod such as this one if you intend to use heavy binoculars. This tripod is used mostly for filming videos while the carbon fiber tripod is used for all DSLR wide-field astrophotography.
Our auto-guiding until recently was always done with the guide scope from the "Magnificent Mini Autoguider Package" from Orion. The guide scope is 50mm, which we find to be enough for our imaging, so we still use this scope from time to time! The scope that used to come with it, the Starshoot Autoguider, no longer comes with the package anymore.
More often on our imaging nights, we use the ZWO ASI 290MM Mini camera. While we still use the other guide scope, the main reason for this switch was to be able to plug it into the ASIAIR Plus and guide using our iPad.
1) Baader MPCC Mark III Coma Corrector
A coma corrector is an astrophotography equipment accessory needed for fast reflector telescopes (under f/6). Our old telescope was an 8" Newtonian at f/3.9, so we needed one!
2) Orion T-Ring
Additionally, in order to attach the DSLR camera to the coma corrector (and then to the telescope), we used the Orion T-Ring for Canon Cameras. Just make sure you get one that fits yours (Don't get the Canon adapter if you own a Nikon camera, for example).
1) QHY Polemaster
The QHY Polemaster is one of the most popular accessories out there. We added this device to our astrophotography rig and we do not regret it! This piece of astrophotography equipment will help you achieve perfect polar alignment easily. See a review and video of the QHY Polemaster.
2) Orion Lasermate Deluxe II Laser Collimator
One of the best accessories we purchased for our reflector telescope! This laser collimator ensures your telescope is perfectly collimated in seconds, literally. The battery included lasted us 3+ years before we had to change it, and so far we never had any issues with it!
See our tutorial post and video about How to Collimate in 90 seconds using this laser.
3) Batinov Focus Mask
Another awesome accessory that will help you save a lot of time in the long term: A Bahtinov mask! This will help you focus your camera in seconds. Just make sure to get the correct size for your telescope. Our Orion Astrograph is an 8" telescope so we bought the 5.5" to 8.5" Bahtinov mask.
See our tutorial post and video about How to Focus in 90 seconds using a Bahtinov mask.
Powering Our Astrophotography Equipment
1) Stanley Jump Starter
We used this Stanley 1000 Peak/500 Instant Amp Jump Starter to power our motorized mount for our first two years in this hobby. We replaced it with a deep-cycle battery (see below) as it began to lose power after one full year.
Despite that, it was still good to have with us while imaging at a remote location with no service. Just in case we ever needed to jump-start our car or refill the air in our tires.
We do not recommend this as an option unless you are severely limited budget-wise and are eager to begin astrophotography.
2) DEEP CYCLE MARINE BATTERY
We purchased this deep-cycle battery shortly after our jump starter stopped meeting our needs. As we added more astrophotography gear, it simply could not keep up with managing the power of our entire setup.
Pros and cons - it 100% could keep up with us power source-wise which was fantastic. But, it was significantly heavier than our jump starter and was not as user-friendly.
After some time, we decided to upgrade yet again (see below).
3) Jackery Explorer 500 + Solar Panel
This is our current primary battery and we really, really love having it!
It is an Explorer 500 from the company Jackery. It is more expensive than deep-cycle batteries - but it is worth it in our opinion!
We got a battery with a solar panel that you can connect to recharge the battery during the day if we are gone for a full weekend. We highly recommend this battery as it is super lightweight, is a great power source for all of our astrophotography equipment, has a built-in flashlight, and has various, useful ports.
4) PEGASUS ASTRO POCKET POWERBOX
Similar in size and weight to the ASI Air, the Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox is an amazing device that allows us to power all of our astrophotography gear and accessories without using more than one port on our main power source.
This Powerbox serves as a "hub" and has only one cable that goes to the battery and is the central location where other cables that need power plug into - such as our CMOS camera, our ASIAIR, and mount.
This little gadget helps to keep all the cables neat so there aren't a million cables going all the way down to the main power source on the ground.
DSLR CAMERA LENSES
1) ROKINON 10MM f/2.8
The widest lens we own is the Rokinon 10mm f/2.8.
This is the one we use when we want to photograph the Milky Way or do star trails astrophotography.
Unlike most lenses, the Rokinon 10mm is entirely manual, so you cannot focus or change the aperture from the camera menus.
This has never been a problem though, and the results are great for the price we paid!
You can see us using this lens on the field if you watch our video about affordable lenses for Milky Way Astrophotography!
You can get this lens on Amazon.
2) Canon EF-S 24mm F/2.8
We mostly use this lens for filming our Astrophotography related videos rather than capturing deep sky objects, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is pretty awesome as it is super lightweight and extremely thin! Because of that, it is also called the "Pancake Lens."
3) Canon EF 50mm F/1.8
The very popular "Nifty Fifty!"
This is the lens we use for nearly all of our wide-field astrophotography.
The F/1.8 is really awesome, but there is another more expensive 50mm lens at f/1.4 that you might want to consider. We usually keep an F/4.0 anyway to avoid coma around the edges, which we discuss in Episode 8 of Galactic Hunter. You can get it on Amazon.
4) Canon EF 55-250 F/4.5-6
This is the only telephoto lens we own.
We now own Canon EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM which we actually prefer!
This is an affordable and perfect lens for photographing the moon or imaging deep-sky objects with a tracker if you do not wish to use a telescope.
We mostly focus on deep-sky astrophotography but we occasionally use our setup to do visual astronomy. In those instances, we use eyepieces to view objects in the night sky. We have two eyepieces as well as a 2x Barlow. We'd love to get more eyepieces in the future and spend more time observing deep-sky objects and planets, but for now, we really enjoy spending all our time imaging.
1) 32mm Eyepiece
We have a Plossl 32mm eyepiece with about the same field of view as our DSLR camera's live view when attached to our telescope. This is a basic eyepiece we use when we want to observe deep-sky objects in general.
2) Orion Shorty 2X Barlow Lens
We rarely use this eyepiece, but it is great to have for both astrophotography and visual observing! This Shorty 1.25-Inch 2x Barlow Lens is useful to attach to the camera to really get a better look at the Moon or planets. You can see us use this in Episode #3 of Galactic Hunter.
3) 5mm Planetary Eyepiece
We also have a 5mm Edge-On Planetary Eyepiece. This is a very good one to look at planets.
You can also attach it to the 2x Barlow for an even better view, but only for planets, as the moon or any deep sky object will appear very blurry with the both of them together.
Astronomy Binoculars (20x80)
Every stargazer needs a good pair of binoculars!
You can purchase a pair of binoculars for yourself here.
And Voilà! This is the list of every piece of astrophotography equipment we use.
There were several pieces of gear you may be familiar with if you watch our YouTube channel that was not included in this post. We did not find it necessary to list because it was either replaced by equipment that was included here, or it has been discontinued/no longer useful.
We will keep adding to the list as we expand our gear. It may be a while as we are taking our own advice and mastering the gear we have. Are you curious about the gear we use? Don't hesitate to ask us questions and we'll get back to you when we can!
Antoine & Dalia Grelin
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Books are a great way of learning about the night sky. One of the best ways to learn is by reading physical material, which improves your focus and memory on the subject.
We have created several books for astrophotographers, including some that you can even write in! Click the banner below to learn more.