My Equipment

Deep Sky Astrophotography Equipment

Note: This is an old article! Please view my new astrophotography equipment page. 

Over the years I have added several new pieces of astronomy equipment in an attempt to improve the quality of my images. Below, you will find a complete list of the gear I have used to capture the images in my photo gallery.

As my focus is currently in DSLR astrophotography, my equipment and reviews are geared towards items that aim to achieve success by this method. I have made the descriptions of each item as clearly as possible, with a review of how well the equipment performs in a real-life imaging situation.

Astrophotography telescope

I suppose my gear could be classified as “budget-astrophotography”, as I do not have the luxury of spending a fortune on this hobby.

By no means do I own the best telescope for astrophotography, nor the best camera. A lot of my gear was purchased second-hand from websites such as Canada-Wide Astronomy Buy and Sell, and Astromart.  

I bought my beloved Explore Scientific ED80 used from Astromart, and my Sky-watcher HEQ-5 used from Astro Buy-Sell. Astrophotography forums are also a great place to meet buyers and sellers.

Must-Have: Astronomy Binoculars

The legendary Celestron Skymaster 15×70 Binoculars

These binoculars are a favorite at my local astronomy club.  I think every member owns a pair!  

They offer the “wow-factor” as far as views of star clusters, the moon, bright galaxies, and nebula under dark skies. Before owning these, I had no idea how amazing a nice wide view of the milky way could look when you use both eyes.

If you don’t already own a good pair of binoculars for astronomy, I can highly recommend this powerful and capable pair offered by Celestron. I like to mount them to my tripod for an ultra steady view, and get a comfortable seat in my zero-gravity chair below them. Click the link to view on Amazon: Celestron Skymaster Giant 15X70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter

Telescope for Astrophotography

Explore Scientific f/6 ED80 Apochromatic Refractor

I enjoy using apochromatic refractor telescopes for astrophotography. For a great list of options available, please see my best astrophotography telescopes for beginners

Explore Scientific ED80 Telescope

My primary instrument for astrophotography is an 80mm Apochromatic Triplet Refractor. This is a high-quality wide-field instrument. It produces sharp, high-contrast images due to the air-spaced triplet optical design, and low dispersion ED glass that virtually eliminates chromatic aberration.

There are several things I love about this telescope. Weighing in at 7.5 lbs, and including a high-quality aluminum padded case with a handle, this refractor is a breeze to transport.

I also love the consistency of the images it produces. I rarely use it visually, but the photos I take with it are always crisp and sharp with pin-point stars. With a focal length of 480mm and an aperture of F6, this telescope is perfect for wide-field astrophotography.

The beefy 2 inch, dual-speed focuser makes imaging that much more accurate and stable.

The only downside would have to be its small aperture. An 80mm telescope is not going to produce the stunning detail observed in a large reflector. Not having to collimate the scope before each use more than makes up for that!

Orion 8″ F/4 Astrograph Reflector

Orion 8 Inch f/4 Reflector T

With an objective of 200mm and an aperture of f/4, this baby can collect a lot of light in a short period of time.

This may be considered “lightweight” and “wide-field” to owners of much beefier telescopes, but for me – this is big bertha. I use my astrograph for smaller targets such as galaxies, that appear as tiny smudges in my ultra-wide-field refractor.  My exposure times tend to linger around the 3 minute mark from the city, to a maximum of 5 minutes from a dark-sky site.

I find the constant collimation adjustments to be a bit of a nuisance, which is why this telescope spends more time in my basement than under the stars. Once it is dialed-in, the results can be incredible.

I am able to pull out much more detail of virtually every deep-sky object, not to mention it is magnified from my usual view out of the ED80.

I should mention, that you will need a coma corrector (I use the Baader MPCC mark III) to use this telescope for astrophotography.  Because this reflector is so fast (f/4) it suffers from severe vignetting at the edges of the frame.

I am glad to have this scope in my bag of tricks, and hope I can get more use out of it this summer.

German Equatorial Telescope Mount

Sky-Watcher HEQ-5 GoTo Mount

Skywatcher HEQ5 Telescope Mount

This is a modestly priced GEM that has earned a solid reputation among astrophotographers. This mount provides extremely high precision tracking, with a built-in autoguider port.

I started my astrophotography adventure with a Celestron CG-5 back in 2012. I was absolutely thrilled with that mount for the first 2 years of ownership. I managed to take several beautiful images with it before it finally konked-out in early 2013 (check out my old post about that)

The Skywatcher HEQ-5 is a great balance between stability and portability. It is lighter and smaller than the NEQ-6, but can still a 13.7 kg payload capacity. The go-to object database containing Messier, NGC and IC catalogues is a necessity for me.

With my heavier 8″ Orion astrograph reflector mounted to it, I need to use both of the included counterweights right to the bottom of the shaft. This is about as heavy a load as I would recommend for this mount.

When shopping around for an astrophotography mount, make sure you have accounted for the extra weight that you camera and autoguiding gear will add!

DSLR Camera for Astrophotography

Canon 450D (Rebel Xsi) modified

DSLR Camera for Astrophotography

This is a popular, yet aging Camera model for DSLR Imagers.  The live-view focus, inexpensive cost, and ability to mod quite easily make this a classic among imagers. There is a fantastic video available from Gary Honis explaining in-detail the steps needed to modify the Canon Xsi for Astrophotography. I modded my Canon 450D myself!  

It took longer than it should have, but I got the job done thanks to Gary’s thorough FREE video. I also use an aftermarket battery grip to double my battery power for an imaging night. 

Update: November 2020. I now use a Canon EOS Ra mirrorless astrophotography camera for many of my deep-sky projects. 

Clip-In Light Pollution Filter

Hutech IDAS Light Pollution Suppression (LPS) Filter

This filter is a game-changer. Without this clip-in style filter attached to my Canon 450D, I would not even attempt to image in the city.

This filter was designed to suppress the common emission lines generated by artificial lighting, yet allow the light from deep-sky-objects such as emission nebulae to pass through. Because of this, the contrast of my imaging targets is greatly increased. There is some great information from Hutech that explains this filters limitations and common misconceptions.

The LPS filter is rather expensive, but it completely opened up a new door for me; having the option to image from my backyard in the city!

I purchased mine brand new from Canadian Telescopes, and I see that they still sell them. Make sure you order the proper clip-in adapter for your camera! This filter was used in every photo I have taken since early 2013.

Related Post: Light Pollution Filters for Astrophotography

Autoguiding System for Longer Exposures

Orion Mini Guiding Telescope

PHD2 guiding to communicate the star movement in the DSI, to my Sky-Watcher HEQ-5 mount. The software sends signals to the tracking mount, making small adjustments to allow you to track objects with extreme accuracy for long periods of time. It sounds more complex than it is. If anyone is having trouble with this step, just e-mail me. I certainly had lots of help online when I got started!

The miniature Orion 50mm guidescope does exactly what it was designed for, and it does it well. It is lightweight and easy to focus. It was very affordable and I would highly recommend it.

Field Laptop


The laptop is a very important tool for my astrophotography. I use my old machine from 2009 in the field for imaging. The computer runs the autoguiding software, and controls the camera via the Backyard EOS application. I keep the laptop in a plastic tote container on its side.

This is a popular method as it keeps the laptop protected from the elements, and shields any stray light produced by the computer from your precious dark skies. I cut small holes in the sides of the container to run my cables through, as well as put the lid back on while I am imaging.

This setup allows me to leave the camera running throughout the night. The computer is protected from dew and the cold when the lid is on the container.

Update 2020: I now use an Acer ENDURO N3 laptop computer for astrophotography.

Portable Power / Battery Pack

Eliminator 1000A/700W Power Box

You do not need to buy an expensive power box like this to power your telescope and laptop. A deep-cycle marine battery with a converter will also work just fine. Personally, I enjoy the convenience of a power box as I use it to power an assortment of electronics while camping.  This particular power supply has 3 AC outlets, 1 DC outlet, and a USB port. The digital display shows me how many watts any particular device is using. This single unit powers my laptop, telescope mount, and sometimes a blow dryer to combat dew!


Update 2022: I now use an Anker 757 PowerHouse. Please see my article on Portable Power for Your Telescope

Adapters and Cables

Shoestring GPUSB, Cables, Dew Heaters

I use the Shoestring astronomy GPUSB adapter to connect my laptop via USB to my telescope mount for autoguiding. It has worked very well for me and has never let me down. I have had to replace my RJ-12 cable before. If you are experiencing connection issues between your PHD guiding software and your mount, make sure to check to make sure that it is not a faulty cable! (This tip would have saved me a lot of headaches!)