A lot of people have asked me what my full equipment list for my astro photos looks like.

I first started with a Celestron NextStar SE 6" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.  I ended up returning that one and, instead, getting a Celestron 8" XLT SCT and an equatorial mount (ZWO AM5).  I also got my hands on an 8" EdgeHD that ended up being a bad version (mirror misalignment that couldn't be resolved via collimation) so I had to send that one back. I got a SharpStar 61mm EDPHIII scope which was my first refractor and I just fell in love with it. Anyway, point being I went through a couple of difference SCTs before landing on using refractors as my primary scope for imaging.

With the SCTs, I had a ton of trouble with backfocus (and didn't really understand it for a long time).  I definitely don't recommend starting with an SCT, but rather a refractor and wide-field astrophotography.  Once you get a handle on that, guiding, polar alignment and the other little things that play into it, then add on the backfocus of SCTs to your learning todos.  It's frustrating but once you figure it out, it's not so bad.

I have two sets of gear, one for travel and one for backyard (travel also primarily used for backyard, but my backyard setup is never used for travel).

Travel / Main setup:

  1. Telescope: Askar V at 495mm focal length with the 80mm objective lens attached (this is a modular telescope so I can swap out between 80mm and 60mm)
  2. Guide Scope: Askar 32mm F4 guide scope (came free with the Askar V)
  3. Mount: ZWO AM3 (perfect for travel and lighter setups like this)
  4. Cameras:
    Main imaging camera: ZWO ASI2600MM Pro cooled monochrome camera
    Guide camera: ZWO ASI220MM Mini monochrome guide camera
    Planetary camera: ZWO ASI678MC
  5. Tripod: ZWO TC40 (came with the AM3 and AM5 as a bundle) with the Pier extension (the three-column 160 pier extension)
  6. Accessories:
    ZWO EAF (electronic auto-focuser)
    7-position 2" ZWO EFW (electronic filter wheel)
    ZWO ASIAir Plus 256gb
    Samsung 1tb USB-C external SSD
  7. Filters (because I shoot in monochrome):
    Astronomik L-RGB t2-C filters
    Optolong 3nm Narrow-band H-alpha, OIII, SII filters
  8. A lot of velcro wraps
  9. Jackery 300 external power source - battery

Secondary / Planetary imaging:

  1. Telescope: Celestron 8" XLT
  2. Mount: ZWO AM5
  3. Camera: ASI678MC or Sony A7RV
  4. Celestron 0.63 reducer / flattener
  5. Astromania SCT compression ring adapter
  6. 48mm William Optics T-adapter for Sony E mount cameras (to mount my camera to the scope)
  7. SVBony M48 spacers (30mm to insert into the compression ring adapter)

The compression ring adapter + the William Optics T adapter and camera give me exactly 105mm of backfocus, which is the documented back-focus requirement when using the Celestron 0.63 reducer.  This is if using my Sony.  If I'm using the ASI678MC, then I add a 21mm filter drawer, 16.5mm spacer to get to the proper back-focus.

The only other thing I recommend everyone get is a good pair of digital calipers. I can't tell you how many times I've used these to measure back-focus and alignment.

I also have a "for fun" config:

  1. Telescope: Sarblue Maksutov-Cassegrain 60mm
  2. Benro Carbon fiber tripod
  3. Small-rig ball-head mount
  4. Vixen-dovetail saddle
  5. Baader Hyperion 24-8mm eye piece