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Old Mar 17, 2009, 8:20 AM   #1
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Hey all,

Ive been surfing S-DC's for years. In fact my first camera buy back in 2001 was due to a review from here. And all subsequant purchase's all gained impact from Steve's reviews
Sadly this is the first time that I have ever thought about creating a user on the forum.

Anyhow, I need some advice for my next camera purchase please.
I am a landscape photographer at heart, so the camera will need to be able to take sharp and clear shots. Obviously I also take the odd people photos (So that my family don't get the impression that I am anti-social lol )

At the heart of this purchase however, is my new found hobby of Astronomy and Astro-photography.
The Camera will need to have a long exposure to allow for the best shots of the night sky and stars, as well as the possible adaptation for Telescopes?

I am on a Budget, though I shan't say what it is, to allow for further freedoms in your suggestions. If a range could be supplied that would be excellent. That said, nothing over $2.5k please ^_^

My preferred manufacturer is Nikon followed by Cannon. However, I am fully open to as many opinions and suggestions as possible for the best camera for my needs

Kind regards and thanks in advance,

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Old Mar 17, 2009, 10:55 AM   #2
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The best astronomy shots I have seen have been taken by digicams and adapters using telescopes. I have had three ultra zooms (2 Olympus and one Panasonic) and although they are good cameras, you won't get much but the moon with them even with a teleconverter. I suggest you google something like digital camera and astronomy or moon and see what comes up. I know I have seen some impressive shots by people having spent less than $2,500.
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Old Mar 17, 2009, 1:29 PM   #3
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Ok, well its shots like these that I would like to achieve.
Obviously not just of the Milkyway. But other areas of the night sky which as well as viewed through a telescope are visible to the naked eye.

A best suited camera for shots such as below need a longer then average exposure period.

So I was just hoping that someone could suggest a suitable camera for the job, but one that is as useful for everyday photos as well.

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Old Mar 17, 2009, 1:43 PM   #4
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Have you tried asking your question here? http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...orum.php?id=68

Other than that you could Google "digiscoping" and you will probley find forums and other sources more knowedgable in this specialty than the very general purpose "What camera should I buy" forum here.

A. C.

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Old Mar 17, 2009, 2:28 PM   #5
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kliskey wrote:
Ok, well its shots like these that I would like to achieve.
Obviously not just of the Milkyway. But other areas of the night sky which as well as viewed through a telescope are visible to the naked eye.

A best suited camera for shots such as below need a longer then average exposure period.

So I was just hoping that someone could suggest a suitable camera for the job, but one that is as useful for everyday photos as well.

That shot could involve a lot more than just a long exposure time. Might have been used with a tracking device mounted on a HD tripod. Might be several shots which have been PhotoShopped together.

Follow AC's advise. There are people out there who know way more about this subject matter than the general population.
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Old Mar 17, 2009, 10:41 PM   #6
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I have done a little bit in this area. I designed a tracking system for a little telescope out in the hinterlands of Texas. You can take a look here...


Actually this is a very large topic, so I will just be touching the top of the ice berg so to speak. As I understand it, your desire is to use a regular camera with lens to take images of the dark night's sky. You have two choices, use a regular lens or use a telescope as the lens. If you are going to use a telescope, you need the camera body which is connected to the telescope's eye piece via what is called a T mount.

The earth rotates, so during the span of the night, the stars move, thus you need some sort of tracking system that moves the camera (very smoothly) while you are taking the image in conjunction with the earth's rotation, so that you get an very good sharp image, rather than lines, i.e. the telescope/camera combination aimed at one fixed point with the start moving across the telescope. I will not go into this any more since you appear to want to use the other technique, a camera body and lens. There is a lot of detail here, aligning the system so that the camera/telescope is synchronized with the earth's rotation, etc. But enough of this, since it is a completely separate topic area.

The camera body and lens, is essentially a more compact version of the camera/telescope combination, but using multiple images to remove the need for star tracking equipment. So how do you get started. Well here is a quick overview, and I'll include some web links for more information.

The night's sky is dark and even the brightest things in the sky are relatively dim, so as you indicated you need to take long exposures. However, if you take a single very long exposure, you either need to continually re-aim the camera (that is star tracking on the telescope), or take a number of shorter images (20 to say 120 seconds each), that is a short enough time span to register some light, but not to register any movement of the star (or object being viewed). You then take these multiple images (10 to 20) and then register them (by hand and not using the automatic capability of the software) together. Thus, you are taking a number of rather short duration shots that gather the images light, but are short enough to not register any of the earth's rotation (or movement of the star across the sky), stacking them so that the stars align across the entire stack of 10 to 20 images. The software essentially stack up all of these images and there by sums the light from each image into a consolidated image. Also, you will probably have to do some color correction, sharpening of some of the individual images, and other adjustments prior to stacking them together. You will probably need to do some of the same adjustments to the consolidated image also.

So either way, there is work involved. Its just not going out finding a dark place, setting the camera on the ground for an hour, running back to the house to see what you got. What you will get are star lines moving in arcs across your image.

Here are some websites....So what would you need to get started:

Well lets start with the light collection system - the lens and then work backwards.

Lens - To be perfectly honest, since you are going to take long duration images, getting an extremely fast lens is probably not going to matter that much (although it will help - by gathering more light during the exposure over that of a slower lens- however the more images you take the better the final result will be - hence a fast lens is not necessary but will help a bit). You indicate that the interest is a pretty wide angle of view, so I think that (at least to start out) a reasonable kit lens should be just fine. The kit lenses usually run from 18 to 55 mm and are usually f3.5 to 5.6. The key here is you are starting out, so start out simple, and then as you gain experience, you will understand what you want and need. No use in poring in $700 to $1000 for a fast wide angle lens if a kit lens will suffice. In time if you want to get a fast wide angle lens try these two both from Tokina. Tokina 11-16 f2.8 (fits Canon, Nikon) (about $600) or the Tokina 12-24 f4 (fits Canon, Nikon, Pentax has their version of this lens) (again about $600 - $700) - however all of this is dependent upon the camera body you select.

Tripod - You are going to need to aim the camera and keep it steady while you are taking the image, so you are going to need a tripod. Again, start simple with out spending a fortune. You can get an inexpensive (light plastic travel) one for say $20 or less (ebay). Then later on figure out what type (ball head etc.) fits your use best along with the features of the tripod works best for your astro and landscape interests. There is a Tripod forum here at Steve's and they can help you out, with all the details. Also, I believe some of the links touch on tripods and their opinions. A heavy sturdy tripod will certainly minimize camera shake (and they can be expensive), so start out simple and work your way into it (just a suggestion).

Camera Body - I use a Pentax, and everyone can say that they use a [insert camera brand here] and that ..... Bottom line for astrophotography, take a look at the links and they will help you. There are a lot of steps you have to go through to make all of this work, and it all begins with setting up the camera. You can select a camera body that most of the folks use (Canon or Nikon) and stand on their sholders, using the camera set up configurations that they have found to work well. Or you can go your own way and figure it out on your own - trial and error and thus may just wind up hating to even go out and shoot some stars.

Shutter Release - or Remote Release
- In the olden days it was a mechanical shutter release cable that you used to push the shutter release with out touching the camera (i.e. introducing camera shake). Today with the dSLRs they are remote releases - they run about $10 to $80 depending on the camera make and features, but they serve the same purpose - to release the shutter with out shaking the camera on the tripod. Here is an example for a Canon...Wide Angle Photography - landscapes - You indicate that your looking to do landscape photography also. To tell you the truth, all the current cameras do real well across the board. There are some special exceptions like sport photography, but that is not your interest. If you were just interested in wide angle landscapes, there are some specific suggestions (the Pentax k20d [body only no lens] at $700 is a real wonderful camera at a terriffic price). However, since you want to use the camera for both landscapes and astro, there are more folks using Canon and Nikon than Pentax for Astro, even though I believe that the Pentax would do very well and probably better than a lot of what is being used out there now, you would probably need to do more trial and error expirementation. Thus, going with the crowd in this case may be the best.

Price - Well it all comes down to the lens. Going with a kit lens 18-55 mm you can bring it all in, well under $1K, For instance... the Canon XSi or 450D with the kit lens (18-55mm) goes for $680 at B&H.This would be a 12MP camera, with a wide range of popular features that would be sufficient for both your astro and landscape interests. Also with a T mount ($20) it can be mounted on a telescope (plus you have some cash left over to start looking at telescopes too).

Hope this helps...

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