Budget Deep Sky Astrophotography Setups
What setup to get for deep sky astro?
If you're interested in getting started in this hobby, it is pretty scary since everything is very expensive. This is the reality of astrophotography, but you can still get away with great results with some cheaper gear. So here is what I would recommend to those of you wanting to get your feet wet in deep sky astrophotography:
First I would recommend reading my other article about getting started with widefield astrophotography, and consider some of the cheaper set-ups that use camera lenses and star trackers. Any setup that uses a telescope will be more expensive!
Setup 1: Budget
Since supply chains are still messed up, I'm going to give you a couple options that are comparable.
William Optics Redcat 51: $843
Radian 61 Imaging Refractor: $1000
For this setup I will recommend three very similar scopes. They all fill the same role of being short focal length refractors which are simple to set up, and deliver great images. The notable difference between them is the redcat has a helical focuser like a camera lens.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer GTI Eq Mount with Tripod: $740
This is basically like a star adventurer on steroids, with Goto capability and a tripod. Its also small and easy to transport!
I'm recommending the ASI533MC since it is has a very low noise sensor. This will be a fantastic camera shooting from a dark sky site, or with a dual band narrowband filter. If you plan to shoot mostly from a city, I would strongly recommend going with a monochrome camera to shoot true narrowband.
ZWO 30mm miniguider: $99
ZWO ASI120mm: $150
This is a very small guider setup that will be perfect for a wide field rig.
If this is too expensive for you, don't worry. There are ways to save when getting into deep sky astro. You also don't need to get everything at once, it took me years to assemble my first full-fledged setup while in high school working as a barista and tutoring physics for money. You can buy used gear at places like astromart or cloudynights and save big, which is what I did. You could also consider shooting with one of the widefield rigs I recommended in another article, you can see much more than you think with just a camera lens!
Setup 2: Monochrome
Setup 2 is a copy of the first setup, the only difference is we are going to choose a monochrome camera with filters. If you plan to shoot exclusively from a city, and it is not possible to travel to places without light pollution, you should really go with this option. This will make it so you can take the best possible images from the city.
ASI1600mm monochrome kit: $1899
The ASI1600 kit will be the best bang-for-buck option, not to mention simple since it comes in a kit. This will work with all the telescopes recommended. You could opt for higher quality filters but they will be VERY expensive.
Ouch. Mono imaging is not cheap... but it does open up a new world of imaging from light polluted skies. This is the route I went when I was starting out. I chose to skip imaging with a color astro camera and go straight for mono, this is because I had plenty of experience imaging with a DSLR, and I knew I needed the narrowband capability since I shot mostly from the suburbs.