1.) Expert - using 35mm film, medium format cameras, or big CCDs with Schmidt cameras, dedicated astrographs (i.e., Tak FSQ-106, Tak Epsilons, TV NP-101), apochromatic refractors (including Takahashi, Astrophysics, Borg, Vixen, or TMB) or expensive Ritchey Chrietians (nice cassegrains with flat fields) on heavy duty equatorial mounts like Losmandy G-11 and GM-200; Parallax mounts; Mountain Instruments mounts; Takahashi mounts; Astrophysics 600, 900, and 1200 mounts; and Bisque's Paramount 1100. The mounts alone run at least $2000 to $10000.
2.) Advanced - Schmidt Cassegrains on fork mounts with wedges or equatorial mounts using 35mm cameras and smaller CCDs. SCTs are good scopes for astrophotography because there are tons of accessories available for them despite their inherent flaws like a curved field and mirror shift.
3.) Intermediate - Equatorially mounted Newts, Schmidt-Newts and smaller SCTs using a variety of techniques such as piggyback and basic prime focus work. Also, barn door tracker mounted cameras for wide field work would also fall into this catagory.
4.) Beginner - Tripod photographs of star trails, constellations, planetary alignments, etc. Also, using digital cameras to shoot through the eyepiece (afocal method) for shots of the moon and planets (it's that easy, just point, shoot, and erase what you don't like).
I don't mean to offend anybody by these catagories as they are simply indicative of the equipment and techniques being used. It's more of a issue of financial flexibility than anything else. And sometimes expert astrophotographers will develop wonderful setups with non-tradition equipment. For example, Bobby Middleton (click here to see his work) produces some of the greatest images you'll ever see using an EQ mounted Newtonian. Sometimes it simply takes a great photographer to get great pictures out of less than perfect equipment.
On the other hand, though I have equipment and often perform techniques in the advanced area, my skills, abilities and results have yet to reach the potential that such equipment can possibly yield. Some, like David Ryle (click here to see examples) have beginning and intermediate equipment using very simple techniques, yet have learned to achieve excellent results. I've often said that I'd like to see David use his skills with my equipment. His images would probably kill mine.
All in all, you need to get the most out of what you have while realizing that it takes some substantial cash to be able to image with the big boys. But even with great equipment, it's not that easy to get great images. The skills takes many years to obtain.
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