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12-22-2018, 08:55 AM   #1
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Tripod - Astralphotography

So, I have a nice, fairly stable, aluminum Slick (pre-Slik) with a single grip which loosens to adjust, then tightens to hold. It's nice enough (esp. for $3 from the local thrift shop) for most photography. However, I very much enjoy moon and other astral photography, and like. The Slick simply cannot handle a 450mm Soligor lens, and probably not any I might get in the future (example: like that massive Pentax zoom selling now on here).

So, I've been researching. It seems like I need a tripod that supports 10 lbs or more. In addition, a ball head seems preferable for astral. However, I wanted to drop this in here to see what you fellow geeks could suggest. I've also been comparing camera tripods with telescope mounts / tripods with much heavier support possibilities (and concomitant weight addition).

With that said, I am open to rec's of characteristics, as well as specific equipment. Thank you!

12-22-2018, 10:15 AM - 1 Like   #2
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have you check this section of the forum yet?

Tripods and Rigging - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database

if interested In a mini tripod

this is an interesting thread:

Moman Mini Tripod - Greatest $30 Purchase in Last 5 Years! - Page 4 - PentaxForums.com
12-22-2018, 11:40 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jawats Quote
So, I have a nice, fairly stable, aluminum Slick (pre-Slik) with a single grip which loosens to adjust, then tightens to hold. It's nice enough (esp. for $3 from the local thrift shop) for most photography. However, I very much enjoy moon and other astral photography, and like. The Slick simply cannot handle a 450mm Soligor lens, and probably not any I might get in the future (example: like that massive Pentax zoom selling now on here).

So, I've been researching. It seems like I need a tripod that supports 10 lbs or more. In addition, a ball head seems preferable for astral. However, I wanted to drop this in here to see what you fellow geeks could suggest. I've also been comparing camera tripods with telescope mounts / tripods with much heavier support possibilities (and concomitant weight addition).

With that said, I am open to rec's of characteristics, as well as specific equipment. Thank you!
The basic truth about astrophotography mounts is you can never have too much stability. Your 450 mm Soligar lens (fixed f8 I think) lens your are going to need a equatorial mount to get exposures of any length for stacking. These mounts usually come with a stable tripod or pier so you will get the stability you seek. They are, however, not cheap. What kind of astrophotography are you interested in? Moon shots with long lenses can work with a stable tripod but deep sky objects require much more.
12-22-2018, 11:47 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I must admit that I am not familiar with this particular lens but it seems that the Soligor 450 comes with a tripod collar. So at least in theory you should be able to balance the lens + camera on the ball head, which would be optimal, otherwise you will always be dealing with creep regardless of how expensive the tripod and head are.

What is your budget?

For my 2 cents I am gonna recommend the Vanguard Alta Pro, the older version. You can buy the 263AB kit ,which is the 263 AT tripod plus the SBH-100 ball head, for about 120-30 $ on Amazon. Vanguard claims that the kit can support 15.4 pounds or 7kg. The older version comes with spikes which can be "hidden" or exposed buy adjusting rubber knobs on the bottom of the legs, the newer Alta Pro 2 series requires you to buy the spikes separately. Additionally the middle column can be rotated to horizontal which is always nice if you want to get low. I'm recommending the 263AB because I own one but also because I am not aware of any other similar "bang for the buck" tripod bundles at this pricepoint.

ALTA PRO 263AB 100, Professional Camera Tripod | Vanguard World US
amazon.com : Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head for Sony, Nikon, Canon DSLR Cameras : Camera & Photo?tag=pentaxforums-20&

12-22-2018, 11:51 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentax Syntax Quote
The basic truth about astrophotography mounts is you can never have too much stability. Your 450 mm Soligar lens (fixed f8 I think) lens your are going to need a equatorial mount to get exposures of any length for stacking. These mounts usually come with a stable tripod or pier so you will get the stability you seek. They are, however, not cheap. What kind of astrophotography are you interested in? Moon shots with long lenses can work with a stable tripod but deep sky objects require much more.
Mostly the moon, at present, but I'd love to seek more "deep sky" objects. However, I suspect an EQ mount would be necessary for that, absent a GPS unit (which isn't for long, LONG, exposures, as far as I can tell).

---------- Post added 12-22-18 at 11:52 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by krazny Quote
I must admit that I am not familiar with this particular lens but it seems that the Soligor 450 comes with a tripod collar. So at least in theory you should be able to balance the lens + camera on the ball head, which would be optimal, otherwise you will always be dealing with creep regardless of how expensive the tripod and head are.

What is your budget?

For my 2 cents I am gonna recommend the Vanguard Alta Pro, the older version. You can buy the 263AB kit ,which is the 263 AT tripod plus the SBH-100 ball head, for about 120-30 $ on Amazon. Vanguard claims that the kit can support 15.4 pounds or 7kg. The older version comes with spikes which can be "hidden" or exposed buy adjusting rubber knobs on the bottom of the legs, the newer Alta Pro 2 series requires you to buy the spikes separately. Additionally the middle column can be rotated to horizontal which is always nice if you want to get low. I'm recommending the 263AB because I own one but also because I am not aware of any other similar "bang for the buck" tripod bundles at this pricepoint.

ALTA PRO 263AB 100, Professional Camera Tripod | Vanguard World US
amazon.com : Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head for Sony, Nikon, Canon DSLR Cameras : Camera & Photo?tag=pentaxforums-20&
I've seen the Alta Pro older series recommended before, and there are some very good used prices for it out there, when it appears used. Thank you!
12-22-2018, 01:08 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jawats Quote
Mostly the moon, at present, but I'd love to seek more "deep sky" objects. However, I suspect an EQ mount would be necessary for that, absent a GPS unit (which isn't for long, LONG, exposures, as far as I can tell).
For the moon you will be using short exposures and can get away with almost any tripod and ball head, as long as you're within weight limits. Long exposures for deep sky objects need some sort of motorized mount or the Pentax astrotracer. The astrotracer is good for relatively wide field; at long focal lengths finding targets becomes more challenging and you have to keep manually recentering your target.
  • Modular: normal tripod, EQ tracker (iOptron Skytracker or similar), ballhead. You'll often have the camera and lens pointed upwards which puts all the weight on on side of the ballhead, so get a better ballhead than you think you need.
  • Dedicated EQ mount with counterweight: This may well be less expensive and better than the modular approach. Why better? Counterweights improve balance and tracking, motors lets you stay on target for multiple photos (stacking) after you find an object, goto capability helps you find dim targets. Downsides are that they are heavier and take longer to setup. I don't have this but here's the least expensive one I saw at B&H Explore Scientific EXOS-2GT Motorized Equatorial GoTo FL-EXOS2GT
In my experience, at 100mm or wider the astrotracer or modular approach work great. At 300mm the EQ mount starts to show its benefits.
12-22-2018, 01:09 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Look for one of these in a thrift store/yard sale etc

Slik Sl-67 "Prototype" reviews - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database

I paid ~$20 equiv for mine. Best value head height tripod you can get IMO.
12-22-2018, 01:26 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
For the moon you will be using short exposures and can get away with almost any tripod and ball head, as long as you're within weight limits. Long exposures for deep sky objects need some sort of motorized mount or the Pentax astrotracer. The astrotracer is good for relatively wide field; at long focal lengths finding targets becomes more challenging and you have to keep manually recentering your target.
  • Modular: normal tripod, EQ tracker (iOptron Skytracker or similar), ballhead. You'll often have the camera and lens pointed upwards which puts all the weight on on side of the ballhead, so get a better ballhead than you think you need.
  • Dedicated EQ mount with counterweight: This may well be less expensive and better than the modular approach. Why better? Counterweights improve balance and tracking, motors lets you stay on target for multiple photos (stacking) after you find an object, goto capability helps you find dim targets. Downsides are that they are heavier and take longer to setup. I don't have this but here's the least expensive one I saw at B&H Explore Scientific EXOS-2GT Motorized Equatorial GoTo FL-EXOS2GT
In my experience, at 100mm or wider the astrotracer or modular approach work great. At 300mm the EQ mount starts to show its benefits.
DeadJohn - thank you! I am going to try my darnedest to avoid EQ mounts. The less expensive ones shake like an attack of the nerves. The good ones are...VERY expensive. Perhaps in the future....

---------- Post added 12-22-18 at 01:27 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by marcusBMG Quote
Look for one of these in a thrift store/yard sale etc

Slik Sl-67 "Prototype" reviews - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database

I paid ~$20 equiv for mine. Best value head height tripod you can get IMO.
Marcus,

Can the "hard to adjust" head be replaced on that model?

12-22-2018, 01:36 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I have a few suggestions.
  • I like to do the Milky Way so wide angle is what I use. I found an old heavy Manfrotto 3001 tripod on Craigslist. It came with an old 486RC ballhead that I hated, so I just sold the ballhead and the tripod was free. It did take me a couple of months of looking.
  • With a ballhead when you loosen the controls all 3 axis are in play. I again found an old geared head (Manfrotto 410) on Craigslist up in the bay area, bought and shipped it. With the geared head I can adjust just one axis at a time, which makes positioning and pointing much easier. This one took me 6 months of looking to find (for a price I wanted to pay). ---- SearchTempest: Search all of Craigslist nationwide & more is your friend.
Personally, if your interest is deep space objects, the only real way to go is with a motorized tracker. The Pentax Astrotracer offers too short of tracking times at the longer focal distances you are interested in,

12-22-2018, 04:25 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jawats Quote
Can the "hard to adjust" head be replaced on that model?
Yes the head unscrews exposing a standard 1/4" thread post. Not sure why the reviewer says its fixed, it wasn't on both the examples I've seen.
I actually like the one-handle head, it's beefy and solid and smooth IME, with only negligible sag after aiming and locking. More control than ballheads esp with larger lenses IMO due to "tipping factor" (the more you tilt the lens the more out of balance it goes). But doesn't have a QR plate of course. I'd only swap it for a gimbal.

Last edited by marcusBMG; 12-22-2018 at 04:34 PM.
12-22-2018, 04:56 PM - 1 Like   #11
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The moon isn't demanding since it's illuminated by the sun just like a sunlight day here on earth. Short exposures with higher f values are quite possible (and needed in most cases) so tracking the moon isn't that much of a requirement.

Wide angle shots can use shutter speeds long enough to gather enough light without tracking if your lens is reasonably fast (f5.6 or faster) because low focal length lenses slow star motion at the film or sensor plane enough to allow those longer exposures. These types of exposures will capture galaxies and stars pretty well and some great shots can be had.

When you start going to longer lenses, two problems show up. Longer lenses usually aren't that fast (higher f numbers wide open), and star motion at the film or sensor is exaggerated requiring short exposures and/or tracking (longer fixed exposures will streak images). Some brighter objects can be photographed (e.g. the moon and some planets), but dimmer ones will definitely require longer exposures and tracking. Some tracking mounts are now available, specifically for photography and cameras, but they can be limited in load capacity. For lighter rigs, they are the way to go and can get you into tracked shots for less money than a full-blown equatorial mount. An example is the Sky Watcher Star Adventure mount (Amazon and others). These mounts are very portable and easy to set up. They come in around $300US.

Good luck. By the way "astral" pertains more to crystal balls than lenses - your new hobby is "astro" photography as the other contributors have made use of in their replies. Don't take that as criticism - just a helpful note as you master the art.
12-22-2018, 06:35 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob 256 Quote
The moon isn't demanding since it's illuminated by the sun just like a sunlight day here on earth. Short exposures with higher f values are quite possible (and needed in most cases) so tracking the moon isn't that much of a requirement.

Wide angle shots can use shutter speeds long enough to gather enough light without tracking if your lens is reasonably fast (f5.6 or faster) because low focal length lenses slow star motion at the film or sensor plane enough to allow those longer exposures. These types of exposures will capture galaxies and stars pretty well and some great shots can be had.

When you start going to longer lenses, two problems show up. Longer lenses usually aren't that fast (higher f numbers wide open), and star motion at the film or sensor is exaggerated requiring short exposures and/or tracking (longer fixed exposures will streak images). Some brighter objects can be photographed (e.g. the moon and some planets), but dimmer ones will definitely require longer exposures and tracking. Some tracking mounts are now available, specifically for photography and cameras, but they can be limited in load capacity. For lighter rigs, they are the way to go and can get you into tracked shots for less money than a full-blown equatorial mount. An example is the Sky Watcher Star Adventure mount (Amazon and others). These mounts are very portable and easy to set up. They come in around $300US.

Good luck. By the way "astral" pertains more to crystal balls than lenses - your new hobby is "astro" photography as the other contributors have made use of in their replies. Don't take that as criticism - just a helpful note as you master the art.
All good advice, thank you! And yeah, I know it's astro - I saw the typo, but by the time I did, there was too much good advice. Besides, if someone were offering advice on astral bodies, that could be fun, too :P

Attached is a moon photo from a couple nights ago - from my Soligor 450mm f/8.
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12-22-2018, 07:29 PM - 1 Like   #13
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I have always used a tilt & pan head instead of a ball head. For me it is easier to make small adjustments as the moon and stars move. I used a non-geared manfroto 460MG head but it had too much sag after you made an adjustment—a geared head is supposed to prevent the sag but I have never owned one. I now use a Giottos 3-way tilt/pan head. I have a 400mm “spotter scope” that has a lens collar and that makes a big difference compared to using the camera mount. The rule I have seen is to get a tripod head rated for twice the actual weight of you camera + lens. As others have said, you can mix and match heads and tripod legs. Also, a good quick release plate is nice to have, but make sure it does not wobble with a big lens attached—worth a visit to a camera store to check if you can.
12-22-2018, 07:57 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by MaineNative Quote
I have always used a tilt & pan head instead of a ball head. For me it is easier to make small adjustments as the moon and stars move. I used a non-geared manfroto 460MG head but it had too much sag after you made an adjustment—a geared head is supposed to prevent the sag but I have never owned one. I now use a Giottos 3-way tilt/pan head. I have a 400mm “spotter scope” that has a lens collar and that makes a big difference compared to using the camera mount. The rule I have seen is to get a tripod head rated for twice the actual weight of you camera + lens. As others have said, you can mix and match heads and tripod legs. Also, a good quick release plate is nice to have, but make sure it does not wobble with a big lens attached—worth a visit to a camera store to check if you can.
"Sag" is the exact reason I'm looking. Once I add a 2x T/C onto an Adaptall 60-300, the old Slick just ain't what she used to be...or something.

Thanks for the advice!
12-22-2018, 08:12 PM   #15
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One more thing - I realized that my tripod head is removable, and I could substitute a better tilt/pan head. Is it worthwhile investing in the head alone? Without the third legs extended, this tripod (photo attached) seems very stable (and it's really not that bad with the third extended). Thoughts?
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