This post talks about upgrading the equatorial telescope mount I use for deep-sky astrophotography. This allows me to take long-exposure tracked images of deep-sky objects in the night sky.
I was able to find a Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro SynScan GoTo mount on an astronomy classifieds website (Canada-Wide Astronomy Buy & Sell). I have found a few items on this website including my Canon Rebel DSLR camera.
If you are looking to build an astrophotography setup yourself, be sure to browse the used market for quality items. Make sure you do your research about the product first (including reviews), and ensure that everything is in working order.
I previously used a Celestron CG-5 tracking mount (now called the Celestron Advanced VX), but I began to experience issues with power. After a few seasons of use, the power would cut out unexpectedly during an imaging session (which was very frustrating).
My first astrophotography mount was a Celestron Advanced Series CG-5 (now retired).
To be fair, this may not have been caused by user error. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started out with this mount, so I am not confident that I didn’t create the problem myself by using an inappropriate power source.
In 2018, I upgraded to a Sky-Watcher E6-R Pro telescope mount, and it continues to be a staple item in my current astrophotography equipment line-up. A reliable astrophotography mount is the single most important piece of your imaging kit.
My Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro SynScan telescope mount with a William Optics Z73 APO and DSLR attached.
My New Mount for Astrophotography
The Sky-Watcher HEQ5 is a fantastic astrophotography mount and has a proven reputation in the astrophotography community. If you’re researching astronomy gear, a great way to see what it is capable of is to browse images on AstroBin, and filter the images by equipment used.
This model includes a heavy-duty tripod, a built-in polar scope, and a hand controller to utilize the GoTo functionality and 42,000+ object database. While the older model I have is rated for about 40 pounds of gear, it looks like the newer version is rated at 30 pounds.
The Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro SynScan Computerized GoTo telescope mount.
The first image I captured with my new (to me) Sky-Watcher astrophotography mount was the stunning North America Nebula in the constellation Cygnus. This is one of the brightest nebulae in the night sky, which makes it a great beginner-level astrophotography target.
The image below includes 2 hours and 40 minutes of total integrated exposure time using a DSLR camera and an Explore Scientific ED80 refractor telescope. I used image stacking software (DeepSkyStacker) to combine all of my image data into a master file that I could process in Adobe Photoshop.
The North America Nebula in Cygnus. Captured June 3, 2013.
After doing hours of research online (forums, vendor sites, blogs) I decided I was going to purchase an Orion Sirus EQ-G, an intermediate-level astrophotography mount. While I know it is a great value, it is still quite expensive for my limited budget.
Before I put the order in, I checked my local used telescope website, Canada-Wide Astronomy Buy and Sell. I was thrilled to find a used Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan mount for sale relatively close to my area.
This mount has a stellar reputation in the astrophotography community. Everything I have read about this mount has been positive, and it is rated to carry a 40lb payload! It is so much heavier and more solid than my Celestron.
I can’t wait to bring it to my dark sky site and spend a night imaging with it! While this telescope weighs a little bit more than my previous Celestron mount, it is still portable enough for me to bring to a star party or a dark-sky camping trip.
Updated Astrophotography Equipment (2023)
10 years later, I can tell you that the Sky-Watcher EQ5 Pro SynScan mount was one of the best purchases I have ever made in my astrophotography journey. The mount continues to work flawlessly after countless nights of imaging in the backyard.
While I still use the Sky-Wathcer HEQ5 for certain projects (like photographing the Andromeda Galaxy with a 10-year-old camera), I usually set up the newer Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro instead. This is the latest version of Sky-Watcher’s EQ6 model.
For a complete walkthrough of my current process, please feel free to check out my latest deep-sky astrophotography how-to article. This is a step-by-step process for you to follow to capture images of deep-space objects.
You can also watch the video version for a behind-the-scenes look at how I capture images of nebula, galaxies, and star clusters from my backyard.
- Choosing a Camera for Astrophotography
- The Best Astrophotography Telescopes Available in 2023
- Astrophotography Image Processing Software Choices
To see my absolute latest astrophotography images and equipment upgrades, be sure to follow me on YouTube, and Twitter. Or, if you’re just looking to begin your astrophotography journey and need more information, you can start here.
This article was originally published on June 6, 2013, and updated on October 22, 2023.