ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY - TIPS
Last updated: 31 December 2012
This page documents astrophotography comments, tips, and photos. Contributions welcome. Be certain to see the other articles on the main Astrophotography page.
Subject: Camera Sent: Monday, December 31, 2012 02:37:07 From: Kev (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have a ETX 80 Telescope, can you advise me on getting a camera to use with this Telescope for a reasonable price and give's good imaging. Kind Regards KevMike here: That depends somewhat on what type of astrophotography and what objects you want to image. And keep in mind that the ETX-80 is a short focal length telescope (essentially a long telephoto lens) so you will be limited in what you can image. The stock tripod will also limit you. You can get started on astrophotography by imaging the moon using almost any camera (DSLR, point-and-shot, smartphone), either handheld (not ideal but doable with some practice) or by attaching the camera to the telescope (using the appropriate adapter). See the Helpful Information: Astrophotography and the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography for some tips.
Subject: Astro-photography and Nikon's Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Lens Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2012 19:02:54 From: Cassidy Photography (email@example.com) I have been taking photos, since 1967. I am an internationally published photographer. I have ben using my Nikon D3, since new, in 2008. Last night was my first serious effort to take some astro-photography shots. Not impressed, really. I have a very expensive camera and purpose-designed lens, mounted on a heavy duty weighted tripod, remote trigger release, mirror-up and RLC9005.jpg is the result. I did not do any editing, merely converted from NEF to a jpeg. Any thoughts? Any advice or tips? Thanks, Robert
Well, Mike, I suppose it does. So do many telescopes and other lenses, from other manufacturers. Considering the age of the Noct-Nikkor 58mm lens it is probably not bad nor was bad enough, in film days. I suspect if I used it with one of my Nikon F4 Cameras then scanned the film, it would probably be quite good. I assume this, of course. Many great old Nikon lenses, while great for film are not so great for digital. I suspect part of that has to do with lens coatings or lack of and all the filtering on a digital sensor. I suppose that I could stop it down, but doesn't that negate the entire purpose of the Noct-Nikkor. As you know the front element is a hand-ground/polished aspherical lens. Anyway, thanks for that. It seems your editing is better than mine. Did you use Photoshop or Lightroom? Not knowing anything about astronomy, can you identify the large, bright object or the constellations? Just curious. Lastly, suppose I set f/2.8 or f/5.6 and about 1/2 second to minimise trails, I am guessing I would need an ISO of 800 to 1600, at most. Your thoughts? I will have to stay up until 01:00 to take another shot. Is there anyway to make the large, bright object that was my main subject more pinpoint sharp? Thanks, again, Mike. RobertMike here: Messier 45 (The Pleiades) is the small upside-down "dipper" shaped group of stars at the left center. The planet Jupiter is the bright object near the center of the photo. Above Jupiter is part of the constellation of Taurus. These objects are well up in the eastern sky at sunset.
Mike, thank you for all the information and encouragement. One is never too old to learn something new. (58)
Subject: update and question Sent: Monday, November 5, 2012 09:36:01 From: Patrick Horan (firstname.lastname@example.org) Don't kow if you recall but I was asking you about 'random slewing' ETX90, etc. Meade did end up replacing the scope with a new one in a timely and professional manner. If I hadn't called them back to ask if I really needed to send the tripod back with the scope due to high shipping costs with only the scope having the problem, they would have 'repaired' my brand new scope & sent it back to me. But, the rep I reached on that call initiated a warranty replacement instead, which is the way it should've gone in the first place. Lucky me! The new scope has been working just fine, so far. According to Meade my issue was rare. but I did direct the reps attention to a post from an ETX90 user reporting a 'random slewing' issue which was posted to your site 8 years ago! The rep maintained he had never heard of anyone hvaing this issue. Whatever! So far, so good... I do have a question though; I still can't figure out in what instance someone would use a polar alignment instead of alt/az. The manual says polar is 'indispensable for astral photography, but why wouldn't alt/az also work for AP? Either way, they will track objects for hours. I don't do astral photography nor do I intend to, but why the two aligment procedures? ~ Patrick ~Mike here: Glad Meade took care of you. As to Polar vs Alt/Az, there is basically one reason why Polar is best for astrophotography of stars and DSOs: "field rotation". In Alt/Az, both drives are used to keep an object centered in the field-of-view (FOV). You probably haven't noticed it but the field rotates as the telescope is tracking in Alt/Az. When doing long duration imaging, this field rotation shows up as star trailing in a circular pattern; small trails near the center of the FOV, longer trails near the edge. When Polar mounted, since the telescope's rotational axis is parallel to the Earth's rotational axis, only one motor (normally) runs to keep an object centered. And since the field doesn't rotate during tracking, no star trailing during long exposures. An Alt/Az mounted telescope can do effective long duration imaging by taking short exposures and using software to stack (and de-rotate) the images. Some telescopes can also make use of a "field de-rotator" which rotates the camera/imager during tracking when Alt/Az mounted.
Thanks so much!
Subject: Counterweight in polar alignment? Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2012 18:10:07 From: Steve Meltz (email@example.com) I have been reading through posts in the astrophotography section on making a counterbalance for a camera; either piggy back or at prime focus. My question is will counterbalancing work in polar mode? I can see how alt/az would not present a problem because the vertical axis would not change, but what about polar? Thanks for any insight, and hope to get back into things once I am down in Florida next month. SteveMike here: Balance is important regardless of the mounting mode.
Subject: ETX 125EC and Panasonic Lumix FZ40 Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 14:52:33 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com) You seem to be the expert as far as Google is concerned on this subject, so please forgive my intrusion. I recently purchased a used Meade ETX 125EC with the upgraded controller. I have taken a few nights out on my back deck to figure out the telescope and seem to now have the basics down, but I am clearly an amateur! I also own a Panasonic Lumix FZ40 digital camera. I thought I could mount it to the back and use the ETX as a zoom lens, but I can't seem to figure out the focus. I have attached a photo of the rig. I used a 52mm by T-ring reducing ring on the end of the camera, then the T-adaptor to the back of the telescope. No matter what I do, macro mode / manual focus / zoom in / zoom out / etc. No joy. Any thoughts? Thanks, Stephan
Mike here: The ETX (like many telescopes) has limited focus travel. So, I suspect your camera focal plane is too far away from the where the ETX can focus. Some adapters are segmented; if yours is, try the shorter length. However, I don't recommend using the rear port. I mount my D7000 DSLR at prime focus at the eyepiece port on the top using the OPT Camera Adapter (see the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page). This avoids a severe balance problem, as well as allowing camera use in all orientations of the telescope. If you want to add a counterweight, there are many ETX counterweight articles on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page.
Wow - thanks for the info and the quick response - I will look into it further. Stephan Sent from my iPhone
You were correct on the adapter being segmented. I didn't even realize that! I tried it out, but it still couldn't focus. I guess I will try the eyepiece port next. The FZ40 is a "bridge" camera, so the main lens doesn't come off and I have used a threaded adapter to go from the 52mm thread of the lens to the T thread. It has the ability to manually focus though. I have a couple of other lenses for the camera that thread on the end like glasses, so I might also try one of your piggy-back ideas as well. Thanks again for all your help. I will send you some images when I figure it out!Mike here: Ah ha! Cameras with non-removable lenses have to be used with the "afocal" method. That's why you can't focus. See the article "Astrophotography Types" on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page. You will need a different adapter that will work with your eyepieces.
Subject: Etx rear port or ep port question Sent: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 06:21:29 From: edward von delelis (firstname.lastname@example.org) Just want to ask of there is a big difference on using the rear adapter for DSLR prime focus between t adapter +dslr on eyepiece bay? How much FOV will ETX125 give on the number 64 adapter? Sorry for asking too much, I can't have it shipped here immediately so I need to know if it would work on my set up! thanks! Von DelelisMike here: I don't recommend using the rear port. I mount my D7000 DSLR at prime focus at the eyepiece port on the top using the OPT Camera Adapter (see the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page). This avoids a severe balance problem. If you want to add a counterweight, there are many ETX counterweight articles on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page.
Subject: ScopeTronix MaxView DSLR II Sent: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 19:19:07 From: Eric Coles (email@example.com) I was looking in to purchasing a used ScopeTronix MaxView DSLR II and I saw your article on its use. There really isn't much written about this device and I don't even know if it's being sold currently. So my question is, is this a worthwhile piece of telescope hardware to have? This obviously will depend on how I would use it and why I am considering buying one. Let me explain. I am relatively new to AP. I have a number of scopes and recently purchased a Canon T3i to do simple AP. I went with the DSLR rather than a dedicated CCD camera because I was only willing to commit to relatively short exposures and quick turnaround to generate an image. I have already been told that eventually I will get the CCD camera, but that's somewhere in the future. Right now I am trying to get the most out of the DSLR. I have been out a few times and have shot the moon, some planets and some star clusters. Results have been so so, but I am learning. So this is my predicament. Using the DSLR at the end of a scope, say the Orion 120mm refractor, is like having a 900mm telephoto lens on the camera. You can make some adjustment to widen the field with a reducer and change your field of view with another scope, but that seems to be it (as far as I know right now). So when I saw the ScopeTronix MaxView DSLR II it looked like you could insert EPs and adjust the field of view like you would in visual mode. That seemed like a good idea. So have I got this right? Does this device give you some flexibility in your field of view? And is is really a workable thing to do? I see that the ScopeTronix MaxView DSLR II is a real hand grenade, and weighs a ton. that along with the camera and the inserted EP is a lot to hang off the end of a scope. I think I can balance that. But is it worth doing? That's the question. Any advise or direction would be appreciated. If you need any additional information about what I intend to do, let me know. Best regards. Eric ColesMike here: The original Scopetronix that I discussed in my MaxView II review is no longer in business. But the product was a nice product, but large. There are alternatives available today, such as the OPT Camera Adapter (see the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page). You can adjust the FOV (and magnification) by using eyepieces (for eyepiece projection) or not (prime focus), with or without a Barlow Lens or some styles of focal reducers.
Thanks. The OPT product looks like a much simpler (and lighter) solution. Eric
Subject: ETX125 and Nikon D7000 Sent: Monday, October 1, 2012 23:12:10 From: CHRISTOPHER MANCRIEF (firstname.lastname@example.org) Still reading my way through all the information available on this site. Amazing. I need assistance please with a query regarding balancing my ETX-125 when(as I intend to do, hopefully) I hang a Nikon D7000 off the camera port.I have done a trial with my Olympus E500, which is much lighter the the Nikon, and I am concerned about the extreme amount of off centre weight. I have seen counterweights mentioned for other telescopes but not for mine, and I am concerned about 2 things, running the setup totally out of balance, which is a non starter really, or trying to set up some sort of counterweight to bring things back into balance, but am worried that the overall weight will then be too much for the bearings and drives. The the option would be a much lighter camera I suppose. Hoping for help and suggestions please. Chris MancriefMike here: Actually, I don't recommend using the rear port. I mount my D7000 DSLR at prime focus at the eyepiece port on the top using the OPT Camera Adapter (see the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page). This avoids a severe balance problem. If you want to add a counterweight, there are many ETX counterweight articles on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page.
End of 4 October update
Subject: Help please Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 09:52:35 From: Viraaj (email@example.com) I have just bought etx-80 and tried to take photos with my DSLR using a prime focus t mount and adapter with 2x Barlow but I found the focus point is inside the focuser Sent from my iPadMike here: My apologies for the delayed response. Your email was originally DELETED UNREAD as SPAM due to the ambiguous and SPAM-like Subject line. Please read the Email Etiquette page on the ETX Site home page to learn how to avoid this. Thanks for understanding.
Subject: Compact Camera Astrophotography Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 23:51:28 From: Ron Harries (firstname.lastname@example.org) Has any readers of this site come to grips with the problem that exists with the average compact camera . That being , the camera automatically turns off in a couple of minutes.. This is a very big problem as it takes me on average five minutes to accurately center and focus the telescope to take the picture. During this time the camera turns off and retracts its lens. This makes the process of focusing very difficult if not impossible. Ron HarriesMike here: Some cameras have a power off delay setting that can be adjusted by the user. Check the manual. One other point that can shorten your set up time: when doing afocal imaging, focus the eyepiece with your eye. Set the camera lens to infinity and turn off auto-focus. The image in your camera should be in focus.
Subject: astrophotography Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 14:01:48 From: josh newlon (email@example.com) I have been seeing things in the sky lately that I have been wanting to capture on camera. My dad has given me a sony, dsc-f828 cyber shot. I don't really know anything about it. I was searching for it when I found http://www.weasner.com/etx/astrophotography/2005/sony.html I loved that page adn the photos. Do you have any advice for me on how to get started? Thanks JoshMike here: Lots of tips and articles on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page on my ETX Site. Start with the article "Astrophotography Types".
Having trouble finding that... I dont' see it here: http://www.weasner.com/ nor do i see it here. http://www.weasner.com/etx/menu.html figured this would be a good place to get started, http://www.weasner.com/etx/site/site-guide.html but it wasn't what i thought it would be. can you link me plz. I dont' want to be a bother but i am interested.Mike here: It should be visible on the left side of the ETX Site page:
Thanks for checking the Site Guide. The Helpful Information: Astrophotography page is mentioned in it.
Subject: Prime focus with Nikon DSLR and Meade LXD-55 SN-10 Sent: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 08:44:49 From: Neufeldt, Douglas [WHQPL] (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have a Meade LXD-55 SN-10 and wanted to try doing prime focus astrophotography with my Nikon D-40x DSLR camera. I bought the "T-ring" and adapter, and I thought, from reading some posts on your site, that something big and bright is the best thing to start with, and being that I have a Thousand Oaks glass solar filter I would try taking pictures of the Sun, but when I mount the camera to the telescope I cannot get anything even close to being in focus. Is the LXD-55 SN-10 focuser the problem? It seems like there is just not enough travel to get the image in focus. Or am I missing something else? Thanks for any help you can give. Douglas Neufeldt Chicago, ILMike here: Not all telescopes have enough focus travel to bring some cameras to focus. I can not focus my DSLR with my PST. But I'd be surprised if the SN-10 couldn't focus. Can you focus on distant land objects? Some adapters come with multiple components. Are you using just the prime focus adapter or the eyepiece projection adapter? See my review of the OPT Camera Adapter on the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page for more on typical components.
I have not tried on land objects yet. I will try that. The OPT adapter is similar to the Meade basic camera adapter that I have. I also have a plain Celestron prime focus adapter. I have tried both, and the problem is the same. I also tried the Meade adapter with an eyepiece, but that didn't work either(the biggest one I had that would fit in the adapter was a 17mm). It seems like the further the eyepiece barrel travels inward when trying to focus, the closer it looks like it may come into focus, but it hits the stop before it gets there. DougMike here: I guess that model just doesn't have enough focus travel. Bummer. Although I thought I had seen some SN10 photos back when it was first released on the LXD55 mount. But when I stopped supporting the LXD models, I lost track of them.
:( I knew I should have bought the SC or the refractor instead of the SN!! Guess I'll have to get a CCD camera...Thanks for your help!Mike here: I really liked my 8"SC LXD55/75, until it was stolen.
End of 9 June update
Subject: Mounting options Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 13:41:10 From: Hoover Randy (Randy.Hoover@tetrapak.com) I have a Nikon D60 and am planning on being on the summit of Mt. Adams in Washington state this August for the Perseoid meteor shower. The altitude is 12,277 feet. Would I be able to mount that body to a Meade ETX-60AT? And if so, how would I do that as far as adapters, etc? Thank you for any and all help. Randy Hoover email@example.comMike here: If you want to take wide-angle shots, you need a piggyback adapter. To avoid star trailing, the ETX will need to be polar mounted. For non-meteor imaging, you can mount the camera at prime focus at the normal eyepiece hole. See the article "How I do Astrophotography" on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page. There are several articles on piggyback mounts there as well.
Subject: Rookie Question Sent: Monday, May 21, 2012 16:21:36 From: Doug Sooley (firstname.lastname@example.org) I am hoping you might take the time to answer me - I have recently gotten back into amateur shooting and have an old 8" SCT. I have hooked up a Canon 7D with a tele-extender and visual back etc....shooting at prime focus. Is there a way to back off the magnification of prime focus? For example, the moon overfills the view by 15/20%....I would like to figure out a way to fit the entire moon into the view???? Thanks---DougMike here: You want a focal reducer for your telescope. Typically they are attached at the rear SCT port. Then your camera is attached to the reducer.
Thanks...I ordered the Meade f/3.3 focal reducer/field flattener...can't wait to try it out.
Subject: 1996 - ETX - Looking to get in to astrophotography Sent: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 15:11:11 From: Matthew Bixby (email@example.com) I am looking to get in to astrophotography and was wondering if you had any recommendations as far as hardware/supplier goes? I currently own two Canon EOS type DSLRs and I'm leaning towards some kind of prime focus kit. I've been digging through your site for the past couple of days, just a bit overwhelmed, any help is much appreciated. Thank you, MattMike here: The OPT Camera Adapter (see the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography) with a T-Ring for the Canon will allow prime focus imaging with the camera mounted at the eyepiece hole. This will allow imaging of bright objects. Long exposures at prime focus will be more difficult since the original ETX will not track accurately enough by itself to prevent trailing.
Subject: Meade NGC60 Sent: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 12:35:56 From: M Weis (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mike is it possible to take eyepiece projection photos with Meade NGC 60 and a Minoltia XD11. I use eyepieces from 25mm to 12.5 and colored filters which is great for the moon. I would like to have pictures of closer messir objects as well as saturn jupiter and clusters. Thanks for youre website and all the help. MarkMike here: With the proper adapters or mounting attachments, any camera can be used to take photos through any telescope. How good the resulting images will be will vary though, depending on the capabilities of the camera and telescope. You can handhold your camera lens over an eyepiece that has been focused to your eye. With the camera lens focused at "infinity", the camera will take be able to take a photo of what it "sees". On brighter objects auto exposure may (or may not) work. For fainter objects, meaning longer exposures, you will need a sturdy telescope mount and for even longer exposures, accurate tracking and/or guiding.
Subject: Meade ETX-70AT Photography problems Sent: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 16:33:03 From: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) I was wondering if you'd be able to offer some advice or simply inform me that I'm doing something wrong! I recently bought the photographic rings that allow you to attach a Nikon camera to the ETX-70AT, which work fine. However the photographs I achieve through using it are almost pointless - there is very little magnification, I feel as though I would be able to achieve the same shot without attaching it to the telescope at all. Am I doing something wrong? Is there any way to achieve actual proper magnified photographs? Cheers & take care, PaulMike here: When you image through any telescope at prime focus, the telescope acts like a telephoto lens on the camera. The ETX-70 has a focal length of 350mm, so you are essentially using a 350mm telephoto lens on your camera. If you want more magnification, you'll have to use something to increase it, such as a Barlow Lens or eyepiece. You may need additional adapters to do that. HOWEVER, keep in mind that with increased magnification comes increased challenges of longer exposures, mount stability, and tracking. While it can be done, the ETX was not designed for long duration astrophotography. But as a wide field instrument, the ETX-70 can do some types of astrophotography, as evidenced by examples on the ETX Site.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly and for your answer. I feel as though the telescope doesn't seem to magnify the image (say the moon) really at all, but perhaps I am expecting too much. Cheers, PaulMike here: The short focal length of the ETX-70 is why you don't see much magnification.
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