I think I would be a bit worried by that image. Those are first and second magnitude stars! What sort of exposure are you using there? The camera allegedly has a 60% QE and is only 8 bit, but is good for exposures up to 60s apparently. I’m kind of hoping that’s a 1/25th sec exposure, as I would really expect to see more than that.
On plate solving. Its the elegant way to solve the problem. A stick on spirit level is hardly a demanding set up and you don’t need to buy a finder as you just use the main scope and also don’t need to consult charts – so its a cheaper solution too.