New Purchaser of the EXOS 2 PMC-Eight
Guess I'm looking for a bit of assurance on my purchase of the EXOS 2 PMC-Eight yesterday. It's being discounted anywhere from $100 - $200 and have a few days cancellation window.
My desire is to start with nothing more than a DSLR and lenses ranging from 20mm - 300mm to reduce ISO and extend exposure for AP but future proofed to eventually slap on a modest scope for visual and AP work as my knowledge grows.
I've been out the picture for decades and parsing through the discussions the digital world of astrophotography is both stunning and frankly a bit intimidating in the myriad choices, a far cry from the film days when I was gas hypersensitizing Kodak Tech Pan 2415 on a LX5 eyeballing 30 minute exposures with an off axis eyepiece!
I'm looking through the discussions and it's not sinking in yet but hopefully you can jump start me.
Is this mount a good first start for my intentions?
What would be the first accessories to consider hardware/software for a newer user related to making PA easier, improve ongoing guiding accuracy, and image enhancement?
Will the included polar finder scope be sufficient?
I plan to go mobile with the equipment.
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My thoughts only...I bought the PMC-eight (plus an ES ED80MM APO telescope) back around April last year as my first EQ mount/tele combo with the intention to use it for astrophotography. I am not tech savvy at all and certainly not in the astronomy world, having only owned a celestron Alt Az go to for visual observing. I am mobile and the PMC-eight/ED80 combo is working awesome for me (although my battery setup is a heavy booger). Lot's of good advice and tech support on this forum and at ExploreScientific to aid me on this trip. The first thing I bought after initially using an unmodified Nikon, was a used canon DSLR T5i and had it astro modified for the photography piece (IR cut removed). Second most important thing (I should have bought sooner) was a QHY Polemaster polar alignment camera/adapter with the associated program/software. Extremely easy to polar align now. The scope that comes with the mount is good too but a lot more work to get close enough for good astro photos and to figure out what the display means and how to use it properly. I guess I'm just too lazy and the Polemaster only reinforces that behavior :-). That single ~$250 investment was soooooo worth it. I get very precise PA now and as long as I have all my parameters entered correctly in my planetarium program (CdC), and then sync on a single star, the subsequent slews nail the targets every time. Next was an autoguider utilizing PHD2 for tracking and a Bahtinov mask for focus improvement. In between all that, I left the wifi and went to a serial connection from laptop to mount, bought a few misc parts and pieces (filters, extension tubes, a field flattener) for the imaging train as well as the previously mentioned planetarium program (CdC - Cartes du Ciel), downloaded Astro-Photograpy Tool (APT) and used ASCOM POTH Hub for integration.
It's that simple :-). OK, not really simple but well worth it. I am now taking "decent" photos and trying to figure out the processing piece using photoshop.
Not really a "checklist for perfection" some of the professionals on this site will pass but that's my take. Use the checklist they proffer, ask and follow their advice/guidance, and you will do great with this mount!
PMC-Eight w/Explore Stars
ES ED80mm APO
Celestron 8" Edge HD
Canon Ti-5 w/ Spencer Camera Astro-mod
Orion 50mm Scope/Autoguider
CdC, APT, Polemaster, PHD2, ASCOM POTH Hub
Yes, these are good mounts. We have folks here using PMC8 mounts for everything from Visual, to DSLR AP, as well as AP with everything from small scopes to Newt's, SCT's, etc.. People control their PMC8's with everything from tablets to laptops to Raspberry Pi's. Those run everything from ES's 'Explorestars', through ASCOM and INDI in their various permutations.
So... the good news is that the mount is flexible and can handle payload, but the flip side of that is that you WILL have some things that you'll have to figure out. And that's what this forum is for.
If it helps you, there are broadly two 'lanes' to consider when planning out how you will control your new mount:
1. Visual + short-exposure DSLR AP. Someone in this lane would typically use a tablet with ES's 'Explorestars' control program to manage the scope via wifi. They'd probably run the camera with an intervalometer. They probably will not try to guide. They might use the polar scope for PA, but people use phone apps and other techniques as well.
2. Longer-Exposure AP + occasional Visual. Someone in this lane might use a Laptop or Raspberry Pi or equivalent appliance as a mount computer, running ASCOM or an INDI-based solution, and compatible planetarium, guiding, and camera-control software. They'll likely guide, and will likely use a serial-USB connection from the mount computer to the PMC8. They may access that mount computer remotely. They'll likely NOT use the polar scope for PA, and will instead use Sharpcap, Polemaster, drift, etc., for the additional precision.
So, you have lots of room to stretch out. :-)
Typical exposure times and focal lengths are pretty varied here, as you can see from the posts, and they do depend on whether you guide or not. I'd be lucky to get 30s out of my mount at 621mm unguided, but 180s, 300s, 600s and better are not a problem when I guide. That took some time, skill-building, and advice-taking, but that's where I ended up, and I have lots of company.
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras: Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer: Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64
Appreciate the replies! It gets me more excited to take the next step. For now I'll try to assimilate this but boy, that Polemaster looks a real time saver.
Let the journey (and $) begin lol!
The polemaster absolutely is great. I use it. But it does need a view of Polaris and surrounding stars.
The ioptron iPolar looks to be the same except they perform a plate solve and will get you polar aligned without looking at Polaris. A friend of mine uses it and it works fantastic also. Now I believe it is available to be mounted on any telescope mount such as our exos2 mounts, but have not myself done it. Suggest to research that a bit and add it to your trade space analysis.
Wes, Southport NC
EXos2-GT PMC-8, iExos 100
ES ED 127, 10" LX200GPS+wedge, Astro-Tech 8" Newt, ETX-90, 60mm no-name guide scope ~ 260mm FL
Polemaster, Orion ST-80 and SAG, ZWO 290MM, D5300 astro modified
Nina, Bootcamped Mac Mini control computer, RDP to iMAC
110 amp hour lead acid deep discharge battery for field power
Electrical Engineer, Retired