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Author Topic: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment  (Read 6177 times)

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Offline rofus

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Right...there's no other way of putting it: before buying a scope, a camera, or a mount, anyone intending to be serious about long exposures astrophotography and long(ish) focal lenghts...should buy a Lodestar first of all.

I spent Summer getting a grip on the black art of collimating an AA RC8, then part of the Autumn to find a wide field small refractor and I found it in the AA ED Triplet 80, and succeeded having both covering 100% corrected & illuminated field on a full frame sensor DSLR. So after getting all this with very small expense (all second hand) and loads of work, I then upgraded my HEQ5 with the Rowan Belt, and that made guiding much smoother...BUT still not good enough for always reliable nights with RC8 1650mm focal.

So few days ago I decided let's try this famous Lodestar X2....oh boy!  :scared: Why oh why I did not do it before?? :surprise: I use the Altair Astro 60mm guidescope moving it between my two scopes (both equipped with solid guide rings) and a Starshoot Autoguider..few days ago after setting up instead the Lodestar X2 (bin x2)..I found myself staring in awe at PHD2 preview for a few minutes...quick calibration, start guiding...RMS 0.80 to 0.90 arcsec, 20 to 35 SNR guide stars, 0.5sec exposures for quick guide and very very light corrections  :big_clap: :big_clap:

Went to bed...tried again the day after...a bit windy...RMS 1.15" in the worse cases (all this with the big RC8!). Not a single problem, rock solid software and drivers, left computer only to come back later to find all perfectly round stars 1:1...tonight again same story, I got around 0.75" RMS :urock: In a word: don't get anything less than something this quality, whatever the cost, is what will save you countless nights, thinking what's wrong and useless tweaking of your mount/cables/scope/collimation/whatever. Don't do my error thinking why you should spend as much (or more!) as your scope cost for a guide camera...just do it!

Seriously...thanks Chris...I can't believe I waited so long...unbelievable this Lodestar X2, is not even possible to compare it with the SSAG.
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline ChrisLX200

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #1 on: 00:02:57, 09 December, 2015 »
What is this autoguiding of which you speak?   ;-)

ChrisH
Chris Heapy - current: 10-Micron GM2000HPS-II U/P, G11/Gemini, TV NP127is, Altair 8" RC, TV Genesis SDF, TV Pronto, SW Equinox 80ED, 10" LX200, 12" f/5.4 Newt, Vixen 90mm.
Atik 490EX, Atik EFW, Baader LRGB filters, Astrodon 3nM NB filters, Lodestar, QHY5L-II all-sky, Canon 70D and 350D
Whirley Obs., MPC Code Z89

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #2 on: 00:17:09, 09 December, 2015 »
 ;) yes I know you guys all have the Lodestar...this is why I realised what Chris meant.

No seriously I did not even think was possible to get a guidestar 40 SNR like the one I have in this very right moment  :big_clap: I don't remember the last time I was so happy I have spent so much money...but I said whatever if not making any difference I can always return it..no risk..this guide camera is not going anywhere for many many years to come.

I'm relaxed drinking a warm coffee after SGP perfectly and quickly framed and centred my next target, PHD2 is happy guiding and photons getting caught on my big DSLR chip...paradise for me and my RC8 finally :)
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline ChrisLX200

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #3 on: 00:27:42, 09 December, 2015 »
My Lodestar is the older one (x1?) and it worked well with a separate guidescope - apart from the drivers which were a pain. Your x2 is well capable of working with an OAG due to its higher sensitivity, I doubt mine would have been much fun.

ChrisH
Chris Heapy - current: 10-Micron GM2000HPS-II U/P, G11/Gemini, TV NP127is, Altair 8" RC, TV Genesis SDF, TV Pronto, SW Equinox 80ED, 10" LX200, 12" f/5.4 Newt, Vixen 90mm.
Atik 490EX, Atik EFW, Baader LRGB filters, Astrodon 3nM NB filters, Lodestar, QHY5L-II all-sky, Canon 70D and 350D
Whirley Obs., MPC Code Z89

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #4 on: 00:33:42, 09 December, 2015 »
Yes I know that now as well I could go to OAG, is good to know but to be honest that would add more stuff and I like my very simple/quick/trouble free setup at the moment.

I even getting rid of my idas lp2 filter(s), don't need it here I've done a few tests. Simple DSLR straight in scopes, one guidescope, I get now excellent smooth reliable guiding..in two hours I get very high resolution full color images, for now I'll just enjoy it as I'm doing just now :)

I think your Lodestar is the basically the same of mine apart few things..from tests around I saw results are basically the same, I was looking for a second hand X1 then I decided to go for a new X2 :)
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #5 on: 00:49:35, 09 December, 2015 »
Despite some wind with gusts, this is my guiding in this very moment..never got anything like this and so reliable before, and not with the heavy RC8 imaging system, producing perfectly round and focused stars on all the field  :blindfold:

Thank you Lodestar and everyone here on UKAI for the suggestion(s) :)


AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline MikeDunn

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #6 on: 08:58:39, 09 December, 2015 »
Curious to know how the new AA cameras compare with the Lodestar ...  Anyone ?

Mike
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10" Meade LX200 Classic, AA GP-Cam, Canon 300D, Phillips ToUCam, SkyShed POD

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #7 on: 09:37:45, 09 December, 2015 »
I actually got the AA before the Lodestar but I was unable to use it for long time as it doesn't work on Windows Virtual Machines on Macs. Looking at specs and chips used, I think it would be an unfair comparison because they're two different "classes" (and prices) of products.

But from what I was able to quickly see the AA (Mono) compared well with the "famous" Starshoot Autoguider (Mono) that I used for years before getting the Lodestar. Someone else who used the AA for longer time might provide more info though!

Last night I imaged no stop from 8pm to 5am, 100% good frames (with a 1650mm RC8 & wind), perfect guiding and big bright lock stars across three different targets at very weird positions (weights up while tracking), what a cracking autoguider and night!
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline chris.bailey

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #8 on: 09:48:48, 09 December, 2015 »
The X2 is a mighty fine guide cam and is also a lot of fun with Lodestar Live.

I think you may be able to tighten up guiding further. With guiding you are trying to correct for mount issues (PEC) and drift due to polar alignment errors (plus refraction and a few other bits and pieces). Elements of PEC can have quite a high frequency component but is generally fairly smooth and long period, PA error is very gradual. Seeing is the highest frequency component. A guide exposure of 0.5 seconds is pretty short and will tend to chase the seeing. Couple that with a minimum move of 0.1 and you are saying that any error over 0.1" every half second will be corrected by a factor of the aggressiveness. With your settings a RA error of 0.09" will be corrected by 0.03" (subject to the hysteresis). Why bother?  The general advice is to set minimum move to 75% of the image scale and to have a guide exposure time of twice the seeing in arcseconds. That will tend to catch and correct for the real errors and ignore the seeing. I run a little tighter than that with a minimum move of 50% of the image scale a guide exposure of 5 seconds (approx. twice the seeing in arc seconds). It does require that you up the aggressiveness (I run at 0.7 or 0.8) but you should see fewer of those sudden reversals and tighten up the RMS error as a result. Worth trying.
LX200|ZS70|FSQ85|FLT110|Altair DF250RC|EQ6 Pro(Rowan Belt Mod)|ParamountMX
ATIK383L+/EFW2/OAG|Lodestar|Baader 36mm LRGBHaSIIOIII
Starlight Express SXVRH16/ONAG/FW|Lodestar X2|Baader 2" Filters
Starlight Express SXVRH814/ONAG/FW|LodestarX2|Baader 2" Filters
Lunt LS60PTBF1200|DMK41|Quark Chromo
Samyang 135mm f1.8

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #9 on: 10:42:27, 09 December, 2015 »
Hi Chris,

I still have to see what is at all this Lodestar Live...is it something that have to do with a liveview that stacks 'live' frames? I mean something that can be fun when friends visit and they all want to see something? :)

About the guiding, thanks for all the technical info, I need to just read through it to understand it technically. Yesterday I indeed set it to 0.5 because it helped greatly with wind, it tamed it very well. Also I remember you told me about the image scale, and with my RC8 and full frame DSLR I have a resolution of 0.76" per pixel, that is why in normal conditions min mov 0.15 is ok but if windy I needed it a bit more aggressive and 0.1 worked well, lowering the aggressiveness to give several small adjustments (that lowered the chasing). With the refractor I have a scale of 2.76" per pixel so I'm more relaxed usually.

Does it make sense technically speaking?? I would love obviously to make it even more tight (without wind as my scope is not protected by an obs). Any suggestion based on my image scales?
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline Phillyo

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #10 on: 10:55:53, 09 December, 2015 »
I love my X2, apart from the mechanical build of it. I have had to send it back twice to be repaired where the solder has come away at the connection. Very disappointing for a camera that costs almost £500. I also still haven't had it back, even though I sent it away over a month ago to be repaired and they then sent it back without asking for my address; but I have moved house. So now it's lost somewhere in the ether. They're "chasing it up" while I'm not getting any imaging time in.
Astrotrac | Avalon Linear Fast Reverse with EQmod | WO Star 71 | Astrodon 3nm Ha, 5nm SII and 5nm OIII | Astro-modded Canon 450D | QSI 583wsg | Lodestar X2 Guidecam | Sequence Generator Pro | Pixinsight

Offline chris.bailey

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #11 on: 11:21:29, 09 December, 2015 »
Lodestar Live is now renamed Starlight Live. Download from http://www.sxccd.com/drivers-downloads and yes it does exactly as you describe, live stacking of live view. It really is rather good though of course the FOV on the Lodestar is pretty small.

I think even at an image scale of 0.76 "/pxl you may benefit from upping the minimum move to 0.4 or 0.5 and on a windier night or when seeing is bad, just up the aggressiveness. I have my doubts that wind borne movements can be successfully guided out in any event. By the time the guider has made a correction, things have changed. The thing that REALLY helps with wind is to hang a bag of sand, or something else heavy, from the centre of the tripod. On the refractor at 2.76 "/pxl I would be tempted to up it to 0.7 or even 1.0. You really want to minimise guide corrections as far as possible so they are only applied when truly needed rather than due to some transient event. A longer guide exposure averages out these untrue errors, gives a better star signal and better centroiding.
LX200|ZS70|FSQ85|FLT110|Altair DF250RC|EQ6 Pro(Rowan Belt Mod)|ParamountMX
ATIK383L+/EFW2/OAG|Lodestar|Baader 36mm LRGBHaSIIOIII
Starlight Express SXVRH16/ONAG/FW|Lodestar X2|Baader 2" Filters
Starlight Express SXVRH814/ONAG/FW|LodestarX2|Baader 2" Filters
Lunt LS60PTBF1200|DMK41|Quark Chromo
Samyang 135mm f1.8

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #12 on: 11:50:43, 09 December, 2015 »
Hey Phillyo sorry to hear about that! I thought honestly is quite roughly built, and socket seems very solid, but using the small USB connector makes it surely more delicate. This is why because I basically keep it always in same guidescope, I fixed the cable with two rigid supports and then taped it with electric isolating tape, to make it not moving/disconnecting/bending, as that cable connection is indeed the only exposed part. I hear from others (and from emails I had with them) that they're quite good at support..I hope you'll get your one back soon!

Chris thanks for the bag weight idea from the center of tripod to tame the wind..I'll try that! As for the guide I'll do some more tests following your suggestions and will let you know :) I'm just happy that now all works perfectly, the guiding is easy and reliable with same setup on both scopes, and scopes are well sorted out. Also nice to see how well the RC8 keeps the perfect collimation month after month despite the changes in temperature and scopes changing on the mount :)
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

Offline ChrisLX200

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #13 on: 13:09:29, 09 December, 2015 »
I love my X2, apart from the mechanical build of it. I have had to send it back twice to be repaired where the solder has come away at the connection. Very disappointing for a camera that costs almost £500. I also still haven't had it back, even though I sent it away over a month ago to be repaired and they then sent it back without asking for my address; but I have moved house. So now it's lost somewhere in the ether. They're "chasing it up" while I'm not getting any imaging time in.


A common problem with Lodestars - even the new ones. I printed out the little support shown below which keeps the cable from pulling on the connector...



ChrisH
Chris Heapy - current: 10-Micron GM2000HPS-II U/P, G11/Gemini, TV NP127is, Altair 8" RC, TV Genesis SDF, TV Pronto, SW Equinox 80ED, 10" LX200, 12" f/5.4 Newt, Vixen 90mm.
Atik 490EX, Atik EFW, Baader LRGB filters, Astrodon 3nM NB filters, Lodestar, QHY5L-II all-sky, Canon 70D and 350D
Whirley Obs., MPC Code Z89

Offline rofus

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Re: Lodestar X2: the best money I ever spent on any scope equipment
« Reply #14 on: 13:13:17, 09 December, 2015 »
Hey Chris....is it possible to get some more info about this thing? If you will to share? I might use it...but never "printed" anything and I'm not sure I understand how that support works... (sorry!)

But very interested in it, seems a more elegant and visually pleasing solution than my more 'DIY' one :)
AA 8" RC + AT Flattener, SW Esprit 100 + SW Flattener, Daystar Quark Chromosphere
Canon 6D modded, Nikon D750 unmodded, ASI174MM-COOL, SX Lodestar X2, ASI120MM
Canon & Nikon various prime lens
SW HEQ5 Rowan Belt Mod, AA 60mm Guidescope, Astrotrac, SW Star Adventurer
Mac 15" Retina Parallels: EQMOD, PHD2, SGP, PlateSolve2, BYN, CDC, Pixinsight, Photoshop
William Optics binos, Baader Hyperion eyepieces, Meade & Celestron binoculars
http://theski.es

 

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