Photography with a Platform

The MAJOR COMPROMISES  you had to make when buying a Dobsonian mounted telescope, ie lots of aperture but no motor drives which means bumping the scope every few seconds to follow objects at high power AND no photography can now be eliminated to a limited degree by using one of our equatorial platforms and, video capture with for example the new generation CCD cameras.

 

Using a Watch House Platform for  visual observing and for sketching, your objects just hang immobile in the eyepiece field of  view, job done !
 
See for example the video of Jupiter and moons on the home page, which represents your eyepiece view. 

 

Lots more detail is appreciated and more relaxing too. Experienced astronomers suggest that using tracking has the same effect on your ability to capture detail as a 40% increase in aperture ! !

 

For photography , use of  the equatorial platform allows you access to BASIC astro-photography ie to indulge both in prime focus short exposure ( less than 5-10 seconds) digital photography with a DSLR and more importantly simple un-guided CCD based photography and video capture using for example the new generation of integrating CCD  cameras.
 


 
ADDITIONALLY mounting a digital camera on a tripod directly on the Watch House Equatorial Platform ( ie NO telescope ) allows much longer exposures to be used for wide field star-scapes, meteor tracking, photos of the constellations, etc, etc, and exposures of several minutes capture amazing detail .
 
see our "Photography WITHOUT a  telescope" page for some examples.
 


 

Please note that Watch House Platforms are NOT suitable for long exposure guided imaging either video capture or DSLR photography. 
Whilst this is possible in principle with an equatorial platform, it requires a much more complex and expensive dual axis design of the type made, for example, by Tom Osypowski in the USA.

 

 

The sections which follow are an incomplete review of current technology based on our web research.
 

 

Please note we do not have extensive experience of these cameras with Watch House Platforms, but are experienting with the Minitron camera, see below.
 
 
As the platform is intended primarily for visual observing, you enter the expensive and potentially addictive world of astro-imaging at your own risk !

 

 

 

Cameras and Techniques

 

Amateur astronomers are now obtaining excellent images of deep sky objects and solar system targets with Dobsonians mounted on simple equatorial platforms, with very modest cost equipment.

 

For example, there are excellent New Generation Minitron CCD video cameras, which  have chips modified to provide high low light sensitivity. 
These cameras are available at a very reasonable price from Phil Dyer in the UK , and they allow effective exposures of up to 5 seconds ( by integrating 256  1/50th second exposures on the fly) , and viewing of these images "live" on a PC or TV .

Full details of these excellent Phil Dyer Minitron CCD camera systems are available from Phil's web site  HERE :

 

 
These cameras are great for star party use and public observing events.
 
You can also, in principle, record video sequences of these 5 second integrated short exposure images, ie 5 seconds exposure per frame followed by stacking and processing to obtain highly detailed images of faint deep sky objects.
 
Exposures equivalent to  minutes are potentially possible like this, by stacking lots of images with eg Registax. 
 
There is lots of free software available to do this image processing eg the Registax program, and this processing eliminates any slight drifting of the image during the data recording phase, by using alignment algorithms,  and thus any minor tracking errors.
 
As these cameras generate their 5 second "exposures" by integrating 256 very short exposures and display the results as a sort of time-lapse video they are  well suited to use with a Dobsonian mounted telescope on an equatorial platform, for live viewing at public events.
 
We are currently experimenting with one of Phil's Minitron 1/2inch chip monocrome cameras at present ( clouds, rain and seeing allowing !!!) and will be posting some of the  results on this site as we progress up the learning curve of astro-imaging.
 
Some of our  initial results are on the page below, and we are encouraged by the ease of use and sensitivity of the Minitron camera and software.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Similar cameras have been use with Dobsonians on single axis Platforms, like the Watch House Platform, in the US for some time, see the section  "Top end cameras using more expensive US equatorial platforms"  below.

 

Full details of these excellent Phil Dyer Minitron CCD camera systems are available from Phil's web site  HERE :

 

 

 

Phil also supplies a comprehensive kit containing everything you need to connect up and  get going on the first dark night, very welcome .

 

The Phil Dyer Camera + the Full Kit sells for about £300 all in at present .... a real bargain !

 

We feel obliged to mention that Minitron cameras are also available from other suppliers, in  several versions, eg 1/3inch and 1/2 inch chip sizes and in monochrome or colour , for example, from  telescope planet :

 

http://www.telescopeplanet.co.uk/ProductListing.asp?cat_code=34&subcat_code=325

 

There are quite a number of amateur astronomers who have published their results with these cameras, and thier forerunners :  

 

A long running very informative site with lots of good stuff from a German astronomer who uses the original  generation Minitron  ( and other CCD cameras too ) is available here   http://www.astro-photos.net/cctv-cams_en.html 
 

PLEASE NOTE this astronomer is using a classic driven equatorial mount (unguided and as he admits not precisely polar aligned either ! )  not a Dobsonian on a platform,  but the pictures  show what  can de done in terms of faint deep sky objects with this CCD camera technology.

 

Also have a look at the Opticstar web site :

 

http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Imagers-Mintron.asp?p=0_10_0_51_10

 

And check out some of the amazing images taken with the older generation 1/3 inch CCD versions of the Minitron here :

 

http://www.mondatlas.de/optik/mintron/mintronmain.html  In German, but its the images that really count .

 

http://www.psw-muenchen.de/MINTRON/Mintron.html  Again amazing images, from a German astronomer , this time taken from a light polluted city site.

 

 

 

Top end cameras using more expensive US sourced equatorial platforms

 

An alternative ( but unfortunately 3 - 4 x  more expensive, ) camera is the Mallincam which you would need to import personally from the US, so remember that shipping and import duty and VAT will be have to be added to the prices you see on the web site, adding probably another 40% to the advertised cost.
 

See http://mallincam.tripod.com/index.html

 

 

These  Mallincam cameras are  being used to great effect by amateur astronomers in the US using Dobsonians mounted on both simple and much more complex dual axis equatorial platforms, and the well established US platform manufacturer Tom Osypowski has pages dedicated to the use of these cameras with his equatorial platforms see : http://www.equatorialplatforms.com/mallincam.imaging.with.a.platform.shtml

 

This really shows what large dual axis platform mounted Dobsonians are capable of using the latest technology CCD cameras. ! !

 

There are also a number of individuals who published their photography results with Dobsonians and platforms, try a google search for Dobsonian  photography for yourself.

 

 

The Watch House equatorial platform will not only revolutionise your visual observing, it  can also provide a low cost entry into basic astro-photography.