I have been using the Canon AE-1 Program camera because it is what I happened to have when I got the telescope. It has performed well in my opinion. Disadvantages are:
  1. It is no longer being produced.
  2. It does not have a mirror lock
  3. It does not have a mechanical shutter mode (it always uses the battery.)
  4. You cannot buy an improved, brighter focussing screen because no one makes one that fits.
  5. In automatic mode, the camera automatically stops down to f/22 in Bulb mode!
The mirror lock has not been a problem. The mass of the LX-200 seems to be large enough to compensate for any "shutter-shudder". That is certainly true for long-exposure deep-space photography. It is less certain for short-exposure moon shots or planetary exposures but I have not seen a problem with shots I have taken of those objects.

The electronic shutter runs the battery down in 30 minutes whereupon the shutter closes. This IS a problem for long exposure photography. I feed the 18 Volt LX-200 power line through a little box containing a Radio Shack voltage regulator. The regulator provides a 6 Volt line for the camera. I use a battery-size wooden dowel with thumbtacks in each end to replace the battery. The 6 Volt line is soldered to one of the thumbtacks and the ground line is soldered to the other thumbtack. Works great.

Since I have not been able to get a brighter focussing screen, I have had to make do with the standard screen. My focussing screen has a clear area in the center with a split line used for focussing. If images that cross the split line are linear, then the focus is good. I use Jupiter or some other object with a well-defined diameter if possible to adjust the focus. This has worked well. I am getting photographs that are focussed well. Focussing is extremely important. I sometimes spend 10 minutes or more making sure it is right.

I purchased a right-angle attachment that allows me to adjust the focus from a better angle. I modified it to provide some magnification which has aided greatly.

I almost didn't discover the last item in the "disadvantage" list above. A friend and I went out to photograph meteors during the 1994 Perseid shower. I used Ektachrome 400 and he used a 400 speed Kodak print film. He got meteors and I didn't although I was sure I should have had some. I had star trails but no meteors. I did not discover what had happened until he and I went out to photograph Comet Hyakutake. He got comet and I didn't. We were both using the same film (Konika 3200), same exposure times (10 seconds to 5 minutes), approximately the same 50 mm lenses. My photos came out black. At home the next day, I decided something must be happening with the camera. I opened the back, put it into bulb mode and held the shutter down while I looked through the camera. I was totally surprised to see the diaphragm immediately stop down to a pinpoint! This does not happen on any of the other settings. I would think that the only reason one would go to bulb mode would be because one didn't have enough light. An automatic stop-down would therefore be the "wrongest" possible thing to do but Canon does it anyway. The solution is simple however once you know what the problem is - simply operate the camera in non-automatic mode and leave the diaphragm wide open. I returned the next night to photograph Hyakutake and this time it worked. I got comet.

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Howard C. Anderson