ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WITH NIKON DIGITAL SLRs
Last updated: 20 May 2012
This page documents Nikon DSLR camera comments, tips, and photos. Search the site for "nikon dslr" for other items about the Nikon DSLR cameras. Contributions welcome.
Subject: Focus problem with Nikon D70 on a ETX-90 Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2012 11:04:36 From: Rob Voorend (firstname.lastname@example.org) Finally I bought a D70, a T2 adapter and a Barlow X2 (with integrated T2 thread). When I put it all together, there's no way I can make a decent shot. They are all blurry, from a distance or close by. What did I do: I attached the T2 adapter to my camera, attached the Barlow X2 (which can be screwed on to the T2 adapter). I placed the Barlow X2 (with attached camera) in the eyepieceholder. I set my camera to the M mode. This is the only mode that will allow me to take a picture if the Nikon lens is detached. All the other modes won't work. As far as I know, the camera only focuses when a lens is attached. So how can I focus my D70 when it's attached to my telescope. With my telescope? Hope you can help me out. With kind regards, Rob Voorend The NetherlandsMike here: Focusing is a challenge with any camera. I suggest you start learning astrophotography with your camera WITHOUT using the Barlow Lens. And starting with the moon next week will make an easy target for focusing. With the camera attached, look through the viewfinder and focus using the telescope focus knob. An aid to focusing is a Hartmann Mask or a Bahtinov Mask. You can make a Hartmann Mask fairly easily; see the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page. I have been using a Bahtinov Mask for a few years now and it is very precise. See my review on the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page. An alternative to a mask would be the Stiletto Focuser; see my review on the Accessory Reviews: Astrophotography page.
Thanks for your ever quick answers. I have one more question: with the D70 in M mode, are there optimal settings for first light?Mike here: In M mode you can set the shutter speed and ISO setting. The values will depend on the target object brightness and the telescope (and magnification). For prime focus imaging of the moon, a good starting point is 1/200sec at ISO 500. Bracket the exposures in speed and ISO as needed.
Subject: Astrophotography ETX-90 : Nikon D60 or D70 Sent: Sunday, May 6, 2012 11:14:39 From: Rob Voorend (email@example.com) Since I stopped working with a webcam for astrophotography, I want to buy a good quality camera. Your gear consist of, next to other cameras, a D70. I heard that the D60 has better quality but it needs manual focussing. Something the D70 does automaticly. Do you know what camera I can use the best? A D60 or D70? Hope to hear soon, With kind regards, Rob Voorend The NetherlandsMike here: I used a D70 from 2005 to late 2010, when upgraded to the D7000. I would recommend you consider the D7000 or the D5100. See my D7000 review on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page on my ETX Site.
I have not got the money to buy such an expensive camera. That's why I want to start with a D60 or a D70.Mike here: OK. Both are discontinued models. I'd recommend the D70. You may have to get a used one.
Subject: Nikon AF 50mm f1.8 lens for Astrophotography Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 12:00:08 From: Jim Beston (firstname.lastname@example.org) Knowing that you are a great fan of Nikon cameras, I hope you won't mind me trespassing on your time by asking you the following: Firstly, I have purchased the above lens in the expectation that, with my D5100, I will get nice, bright, wider-field photos than with my kit 18-55 mm lens. My belief here stems from my f-10 LX 200 and its reduction to f-6.3 with the Mede focal reducer in that, everything else being constant a lower f number = a wider, brighter, field of view. I would like to know if I am correct here. Secondly this lens does not allow autofocus with the D5100-not a problem, but I expected to have manual control over exposure, ISO setting and (the manually controlled) aperture - the f-stop setting. To my surprise if I try to change the aperture ring setting to anything less than its maximum (f22) the camera objects and I am told to lock the ring at the f22 setting. But, if I can't set the aperture to at least f 2.8, I doubt I can get any good photos. I see that the camera alters the f stop automatically with the camera in automatic mode, presumably this alteration is according to the light conditions. I feel I am missing something here. Is there a way to set the aperture manually? Thanks a bunch! JimMike here: Which shooting mode have you set the dial to?
Further to my request, below. I have now found that I CAN change the aperture settings by selecting "A," which I believe means aperture priority, on the camera's function ring allowing me to change aperture using the "spin ring." However, in this mode the camera determines exposure time not me. In other words it seems that I can fix either aperture or exposure, but not both. Is there a way to set both independently of each other? Thanks again and sorry for being a pain!Mike here: If your camera model has a "M" setting on the dial, use that to have full control over the shutter speed and aperture. I use M on my D7000 for nearly all my astrophotography.
That's the problem, I can only control exposure (with the spin ring) in "M" mode. I have one of those ML-3 cable shutter release controls will that allow setting of exposure time in "A" mode?Mike here: Odd. I would have thought it would be the same as on my old D70 as well as the D7000. In M mode the rear rotating knob controls shutter speed and the front knob does aperture. Check your manual. No. The ML-L3 is just a remote shutter button.
And an update:
I might have "cracked" it. I can set aperture in "A" mode then change to "M" mode and set exposure. Does that sound right?Mike here: Odd. But if it works, ok.
Well, I have tried everything I can think of and it does seem that the aperture ring at the back of the lens has to be locked in the f-22 position at all times and modes. The aperture is then wholly controlled by the camera. I have found the only way I can fix the f-stop is to set it in "A" mode. Then, to enable exposure control at the set aperture I change to the "M" mode. Both aperture setting in "A" mode and Exposure setting in "M" mode are effected by the front spin ring. Unfortunately the pouring rain (wouldn't you know it?) at the moment prevents me from doing any observing but indoor photography has confirmed the above. Should I see any vast difference in field of view between the extremes of stops? I see very little indoors. Thanks Mike :-) I wonder if the fact that this lens does not have the silent wave drive but should be driven from the camera body motor (which the D5100 does not have) has anything to do with this, or is the drive purely for autofocus? I have now found: In manual mode the spin ring alters exposure. If the exposure compensation/aperture button is pressed (the one with +/- on it) while rotating the ring the Aperture setting is changed. QED And I promise not to bother you again for at least 6 months. I REALLY am grateful for your help and adviceMike here: No vast difference except that exposures will have to be longer. I have never used a D5100 so don't know.
Subject: Re: Photography through ETX60AT Sent: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 15:23:18 From: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) RE clubs, these two are lovely people, with excellent equipment. It isn't worth competing. (You may have come across the name Crayford - they are responsible for the focusser which bears their name.) I could do some very interesting artistic effects slantwise through the double glazing with the right focus on the camera. But I'm not going to trek outdoors until I know it's going to be worth it. I've been trying to work out a way of getting a window which opens suitably - but I'm in a conservation area with rules about the sizes of panes, which are too large for side openings. Should have thought about it before moving. It looks as though it will be rather expensive to get the adapter sent to me, compared with its price. PennyMike here: Sounds like good people to get to know. Remember, they (and me) started out simple with no knowledge or experience.
Subject: Photography through ETX60AT Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 01:07:48 From: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) After a period of not using my telescope, I've got back to doing so, and have equipped myself with the correct ring to connect it to my Nikon D40 DSLR. Though I had the ring to connect it to my old film SLR, I had never got round to it. I found last night that it wasn't possible to get a very good focus in imaging the Moon and, seperately, Jupiter. Similarly, with the Pleiades, I had fuzzy, soft focus images, rather than the sharp ones I was hoping for. With Jupiter, I could see that there were bands, but the moons visible to the eye through the scope did not form images in the camera.With the Moon, I could see craters etc, but they looked a lot sharper to the eye - and since I have presbyopia and glasses, I am not used to this difference. I had adjusted the focussing screw as far as it would go, but had the impression that it needed to go just a little further. I even unscrewed the T fittings a little to change the focal length, but that was an adjustment in the wrong direction. Short of getting a new camera or telescope or both, is there anything I can do to improve the images? Penelope StanfordMike here: You didn't say which port you were using but I'll assume the rear port was being used. There are two problems with astrophotography with a DSLR on the ETX-60/70 (and probably the ETX-80): 1. backfocus may be insufficient (as you have discovered), and 2. the camera weight may be too much for the axis locks (unless a counterweight system is used). I have used my D70 and D7000 DSLRs with the OPT Camera Adapter with my ETX-70 at prime focus using the eyepiece port on the top of the telescope. I was able to focus. Depending on your adapter, you may be able to focus by using "extension rings".
Hi, thanks for the prompt response. I was using the rear port, and had no problems with weight. Your link led me to a "404 Not found" message, but I will look up the adapter separately. It's the trouble, i suppose, with using entry level devices.Mike here: Link should work. Just did for me. Keep me posted on what you decide to do.
I've got to your review via another route.
I've contacted OPT about buying the adapter - your pictures look like what I was expecting - my eyes could see that sort of sharpness through the eyepieces. The odd thing was that looking through the viewfinder of the camera, the image did not look as unfocussed as the photo. I've seen reviews of the T-Mount where people have written of how good their pictures were, but they turned out to be of terrestrial objects, and probably not, as mine were, through a double glazed window - which I forgot to mention. (I live in a three floor building with good aspects to the SE and NW, but the windows, though giving brilliant wide views of the sky, don't open, and can't be constructed to open, in a way which allows uninterrupted observation. I wake in the night and trot next door to the spare room, which is better than going outside for lots of reasons, but it does mean viewing through glass.) I was going to go outside tonight to see if it was better, but our high pressure has moved on, and the curse of British astronomy returned. PennyMike here: Argh! Viewing and photographing through glass is not going to be very satisfactory. The image will be distorted and you will be magnifying any imperfections in the glass. What looks good through the camera viewfinder (which is at a very small scale) will not always be a good indicator of focus. Using a Hartmann or Bahtinov Mask (see the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page) or eyepiece magnifier is best to achieve a good focus.
I know! But it's trees, or glass! Or a drive to the churchyard. (The last place I lived I was able to do the Open University replication of the Ancient Greek method of calculating the distance of the Moon through glass successfully, but it was single glazed, and float glass which had very few imperfections. I'm not into getting perfection-if I want a good photo, I'll leave it to the experts. It's more a personal diary of what I can see from my home, but I want the best I can do, given the constraints. For higher objects, my back garden is OK, though not to the east. And there's a communal lawn beyond that which I intend to use (but there's a temperamental security light. Saturn might be a good object to help deal with that, by engaging the house owner.) It was better here for Mercury than the last place, which had South London to the west, and I'm looking forward to a good morning apparition (through glass in pyjamas!) Though I'm not in a really dark sky area, It's vastly better than near the Thames, where they built a mall (downlighting, but still increasing ambient light) and a hospital (no downlighting, almost like an airport). The village has 1960s architecture, and most lighting is low bollards, or with good shades on top. I can see the Milky Way. I used to do telescope evenings at the school I taught at, initially with a huge home-built-in-a-drainpipe-reflector someone wanted to get rid of, but this became difficult after a secondary school about a mile away installed two security lights, and I was never able to make effective use of the ETX for this activity. (After constantly having to push the reflector after the Moon between children, I was looking forward to the drive.) If I can get good pictures, it will be worth getting up for! It's very experimental at the moment. Thanks again, Penny
I do get good focussing with the camera alone through the viewfinder on manual focus (using the up to 200mm lens). The reason I would not expect to go to real expertise is because of links with the Crayford and Croydon astronomical societies. I am not worthy. PennyMike here: Camera telephoto lenses can work OK through windows (many times, as long as the angle isn't too bad), but the longer focal length (even 350mm of your telescope), combined with the small details you are trying capture, will make imaging through a window difficult. Even focusing will be difficult. Good luck. As to astronomical societies, most clubs and groups welcome new members, regardless of level or expertise. Everyone loves showing their equipment and talking about astronomy and telescopes. They are a great way to learn and make new friends.
Subject: Maybe you can help this newb... Sent: Saturday, February 4, 2012 04:56:39 From: J. W. Johnson (email@example.com) Trying to shoot AP on my D7000 using a William Optics ZenithStar 80II with the Nikon mount and WO T-adapter, but am unable to focus adequately. It seems like it can't get close enough to the telescope when I'm racking the knob; am I missing something obvious? Eyepiece focuses perfectly, camera useless...help! Thanks in advance, John This missive was sent careening off the walls of my iPad...Mike here: First, your message was originally DELETED UNREAD as SPAM due to the Email Subject Line. Please read the "Electronic Mail Etiquette and Submittal Guidelines" on the ETX Site to learn how to avoid this happening in the future. Thanks for understanding.
Sorry to have wasted your timeMike here: No, you are not wasting my time. Glad to help. Just didn't want you to think your email was ignored. If you can provide the additional info I requested, we can likely determine the problem.
I'm just attempting your basic astrophotography, i.e. pictures of the moon, pictures of Saturn, Jupiter, at the moment. You are correct. There is a 2 inch photo adapter, made by William optics, that connects to the T ring on the camera and slots into a diagonal on the telescope.Mike here: Since you didn't say what type of astrophotography you are doing (per that article I mentioned), I'll assume you are doing "prime focus" astrophotography, where the telescope acts like a long telephoto lens. So, with the telescope + diagonal + adapter + T-Ring + camera combination, you can not reach a focus. It should, assuming there is enough focus travel with the telescope. Lets try a test using either the moon or a bright daytime object. Run the focus all the way so that the diagonal is at its closest to the telescope back. Remove the adapter and hold the camera over the diagonal. While looking into the viewfinder or using "Live View", move the camera slowly and carefully towards and away from the diagonal. Can you reach a focus?
I'll try that...thanks again. Sent kicking and screaming from my iPhone
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