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As an amateur with limited budget, I'd be interested in taking photos of the night sky, trying to capture more detail than human eye armed with a lens of comparable parameters to what I have in my camera normally could see. I doubt I'd ever get down to details as fine as Jupiter's moons, but I'd hope to see detail of some nebulae I have a hard time seeing through my inexpensive telescope, stars too dim to notice in less-than-perfect conditions etc. I'm interested in taking full-sky images just as well as zooms on specific objects too.

Currently, I have a lower-end SLC camera, with two lenses - good sharpness though lower aperture with 50-120mm focal length, and a wide-angle, high-brightness one (about 12-50mm) currently. Firmware hacks allow me to take photos of arbitrarily long time, and I have the remote to start and stop it without touching the camera, and generally software-wise the camera is quite powerful. One of the lenses (the longer focal length) is of "standard professional" quality level too.

Is this sufficient to get started? If so, what kind of settings should I use? If not, what other kind of entry-level equipment would I need to obtain/build on budget to get started with night sky photography?

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An affordable option is to build a "Barn Door Tracker", essentially two hinged plates connected by a threaded rod, with the hinge axis pointing at the north celestial pole, if you change the separation between the plates at the appropriate rate star trails will be cancelled out. The Springfield Telescope Makers have a long list of links to online instructions on their website . Gary Seronick's is a particularly complete motorized version while Noctilove is an example of a simple motorless design (with a moderate focal length lens, a clock and a steady hand, you can can manually drive the Barn Door Tracker).

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For long exposure pictures you need to have a motorized mount for your camera. The earth's rotation will lead to streaks otherwise. An affordable way to do this is to use a standard tripod with a star tracker on top. There is a variety of products like:

They cost around 400-500 USD and are fairly small. You need to align them to the sky's north pole (using the star Polaris in Ursa Minor), and then they will rotate your camera as the earth rotates during the night.

Also, you may want to start with your 50mm lens first. The greater the focal length, the higher the magnification, and also the more visible the tracking errors and misalignments of the sky tracker and camera system will be. Be prepared to spend quite some time trying to get good results!

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