Is it the perfect moment to get into Astrophotography ?

L0n3Gr3yW0lf
06 Feb, 2016 05:51
Hello, first time posting here (the excitement is exhilarating) and I wonder what are your thoughts in the incredible technological advancements the camera (DSLR and Mirrorless) industry is making. The ISO performance is growing with each camera announcement, the sensor output is getting better and better and new lenses makes all kinds of possibilities (like the brand new Sigma 20mm f 1.4 DG HSM Art lens, that is the widest and fastest lens with autofocus too).

The new generations of Sony A7's are incredibly useful for portability with high quality, A7R II for huge prints with good high ISO performance, A7S II for incredible low light capabilities and even 4K video with very high ISO (above 12.800) and good quality,

Nikon's brand new D5 and D500 will, most probably, be kings of high ISO performance with incredible image quality.

And things can only get better as sensor technology evolves: like recently announced Panasonic and Fujifilm collaboration on Organic sensors.
I do want to ask people, specially those that have multiple systems under their belt in usage and experience, what are some of the best cameras and lenses too for astrophotography, be it wide field or planetary or deep space. Lenses might be less of importance when using telescopes and EQ tracking. Also when tracking high ISO performance is of a less importance since the image is building up the light so lower ISO can be used.

Is Sony A7's worth the high price, even though the native lenses are pretty slow, do Fujifilm handle the stars well, specially with those beautiful 16mm f 1.4, 35mm f 1.4, 56mm f 1.2 lenses, does the smaller Micro Four Third sensors go well against the competition, though they have the widest selection of lenses very few go faster then f 1.8 … also the, most probably dead, Samsung NX system have very beautiful cameras (NX1 and NX500) and incredible lenses handle this task well … or Sony aXXXX series fair better even though the lack of  faster then f 1.8 lenses but still the brilliant Samyang 12mm f 2 (18mm f 2 equivalent) can be used on Sony, Samsung and Fujifilm at its widest setting.

I want to start astrophotography, specially the deep space objects, and I am thinking what system to get into. Right now I own a Panasonic GX-7 but I am not invested in this system enough to be tied down to it.
NightSky
07 Feb, 2016 05:31
Hi Ovi.  Welcome to Astrobin.  I've been onboard now approaching 2 years and my experience is that greater than 90 percent of its members use CCD vs. DSLR as a rule.  However, I'm one of those 10 percentage that use DSLR and have some success although I am relatively new to the digital age of astrophotography.

I use a Nikon d7100, Nikkor 180mm ED f/2.8, 85mm & 35mm f/1.4, and Tokina SD 11-16mm f/2.8.  Depending on which dslr you use or plan on getting will pretty much determine which lens you acquire (vice-versa).  Most use Canon products and I think Nikkor lenses a a bit better but these are high end products so you can't go wrong in what you choose.  I also use Orion's Sirius GEM GoTo Mount along with PixInsight and PhotoShop with various Action Add-ons.

Astronomy is like a house mortgage (a money pit).  Very expensive to do it right.  One thing that you should keep it mind is the importance of software.  The best equipment is useless it you cannot post-process your data effectively.  Portability and your sky conditions are also important considerations.

Anyway, your question is a very difficult one to answer but I hope the above helps.  One thing to consider, go slow with your purchases.  There is absolutely no rush to buy everything now.
Hartmuth_Kintzel
07 Feb, 2016 13:39
Hi Ovi.
I am also one of the minority who take pictures with a DSLR.
But it is a real minority only at the very ambitious astrophotographers.
Here at Astrobin it is probably so, that users of CCD cameras and those with DSLR keep balanced.
I am too thinking about the idea to buy me a Sony A7s.
Especially for the photography of Aurora Borealis. In the field, the camera appears to be unrivaled good.
For deep sky astrophotography mostly Canon cameras are used, because there is the most equipment and accessories to buy.  (Telescop-adapters, filters… )
And because the RAW files are easy to process.
Sony RAW-files are supposed to be difficult for standard software.
So far I have found in Astrobin only one who has shown good pictures that have been taken with a Sony A7s:
http://www.astrobin.com/237476/0/
This one is modified with a Astrodon-IR filter, in order to make red-sensitive.
(At the most Canon cameras the IR-filter is also replaced to make it fit for deep sky astrophotography.)
The timing to start astrophotography, is never particularly good or bad. Because there are always new developments. If you wait for it, you will never begin.
greetings
Hartmuth
Edited 07 Feb, 2016 14:03
EMagowan
08 Feb, 2016 01:28
Hello Ovi;

I started shooting the sky with Tri-X film a looooooong time ago, laying the camera down on a rock, pointed up at the sky.  Now I'm sitting here in the dark killing time while my computer-guided mount with telescope and computer-controlled modified DSLR is photographing the Horsehead Nebula in Hydrogen-Beta light.  45 years ago I would not have imagined being able to do this, let alone it being pretty affordable.  So YES….it's a great time to be getting into Astrophotography.  It is well within reach of a modest budget for an amateur to take very pleasing astrophotos.  There will always be a better mount, telescope and camera out there, but that is no reason to not get started.

Clear skies,
Ed
bobzeq25
08 Feb, 2016 08:58
It's a great time to start, because the community (which includes imagers;  hardware and software manufacturers) is so vibrant.

Chinese optics have gotten darn good.

Cameras are the least of it.

You do realize the most important piece of equipment, by far is the mount, right?  From a photographic point of view you're trying to hold a long telephoto on a moving target, while shooting through turbiulent air.  With a degree of accuracy that is hard to wrap your brain around.  An error of less than 1/1000 of an inch will make any camera decision moot.

So the mount is your first choice.  And, at any budget under $4000, should account for a least half of it.  Spending more on either the camera or the scope than the mount, is a red flag.  A misallocation of resources.
Edited 08 Feb, 2016 09:00
L0n3Gr3yW0lf
08 Feb, 2016 12:36
Thank you so much for the information, this is very helpful. I was looking for an all-round camera to use and why I asked the question. I shoot a lot of landscape and macro images and I was interested if an upgrade would be worth an extra budge cost to be able to do wide field astrophotography and deep space astrophotography too. It's a fight between Fujifilm X or Sony A7 at the moment and trying to compare the lenses in each system. I thought that if using mount tracking for deep space object can make the high ISO performance more irrelevant (since it would count more for stacking long, minutes, exposure then short high ISO exposures) so using a cheaper (smaller sensor) system to put more money elsewhere.

And interested in looking for as portable as possible mount and telescope and that would need a lighter camera too (something not like 1.4 KG Nikon D5).
bobzeq25
17 Feb, 2016 02:58
Once again, the camera is the least important part, but you're overlooking a few points.

You don't want to use high ISO.  It limits your dynamic range, with no real benefit, once you get above unity gain.  With older Canons higher ISOs were used because Canons had large read noise at low ISO.

You don't want a small chip.  That limits your field of view, and tends to reduce the all important signal to noise ratio, once again with little gain.  Full frame is a bit difficult for modest optics to cover, APS-C is what most use.

Down the road you're likely to want to computer control your camera, and download images from it real time, for things like focus and plate solving.  That's the Achilles heel of the otherwise good Sonys, and really directs you toward Canon or Nikon due to the availability of BackyardEOS and BackyardNikon, or compatibility with Sequence Generator Pro.  Look at what people use here, there are good reasons.

You're correct that long exposures at lower ISOs are preferred to short ones at high ISOs.  But they require an excellent mount, which is every imagers first priority.  Visual observers have aperture envy, imagers have mount envy.  The minimum I recommend is the Sirius, $1200.

A tiny error in tracking, less than 1/1000 inch,  will ruin images from any camera, no matter how good.  That's about 5 pixels. Enormous.
Edited 17 Feb, 2016 03:02
whwang
23 Feb, 2016 06:56
Hi,

There are indeed many options out there.  However, no matter which one you pick, just don't pick Sony.  They are infamous now.  The Sony A7x series all try to filter out hot pixels in the "Bulb" long exposure raw images.  As a result, stars are also filtered out, and this cannot be turned off.  Some people refer this to "star eater." Nikon used to do this too, long time ago, and this is one of the reasons why there were not many people using Nikon DSLRs for astrophotography until 2011 or so. (You can see the history of this if you google "Nikon Mode 3".)  Now Sony makes the same mistake and it doesn't seem to be willing to listen to the users and fix this.

How bad this can be?  This is from pictures I made using an A7R:
http://www.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw/~whwang/misc/star_eater.jpg
The top two images were taken using the Bulb mode, and the bottom two images were taken with the M mode.  Everything else is the same, same lens, same mount, same night, and very similar total exposure times.  The M mode only allows up to 30sec exposures, so I have to stack many of them to reach a long total exposure.  Look at the stars of the Bulb images and the M images.  The Bulb one has many stars gone.  Again, this is made by the camera, and cannot be turned off.  As far as I can tell, all users of the A7x cameras report such a problem (although some users don't seem to care).  Even some aXXXX DSLR users report similar problems.

So, in short, keep away from Sony.  Their sensors are fantastic, but they do stupid things in the camera firmware that greatly compromise astrophotography. Unless you don't care that many stars disappear in your images, or unless you are ready to take many 30sec exposures to stack, don't get a Sony.

Good Luck.

Wei-Hao
L0n3Gr3yW0lf
23 Feb, 2016 14:35
Wei-Hao Wang
Hi,There are indeed many options out there.  However, no matter which one you pick, just don't pick Sony.  They are infamous now.  The Sony A7x series all try to filter out hot pixels in the "Bulb" long exposure raw images.  As a result, stars are also filtered out, and this cannot be turned off.  Some people refer this to "star eater." Nikon used to do this too, long time ago, and this is one of the reasons why there were not many people using Nikon DSLRs for astrophotography until 2011 or so. (You can see the history of this if you google "Nikon Mode 3".)  Now Sony makes the same mistake and it doesn't seem to be willing to listen to the users and fix this.

How bad this can be?  This is from pictures I made using an A7R:
http://www.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw/~whwang/misc/star_eater.jpg
The top two images were taken using the Bulb mode, and the bottom two images were taken with the M mode.  Everything else is the same, same lens, same mount, same night, and very similar total exposure times.  The M mode only allows up to 30sec exposures, so I have to stack many of them to reach a long total exposure.  Look at the stars of the Bulb images and the M images.  The Bulb one has many stars gone.  Again, this is made by the camera, and cannot be turned off.  As far as I can tell, all users of the A7x cameras report such a problem (although some users don't seem to care).  Even some aXXXX DSLR users report similar problems.

So, in short, keep away from Sony.  Their sensors are fantastic, but they do stupid things in the camera firmware that greatly compromise astrophotography. Unless you don't care that many stars disappear in your images, or unless you are ready to take many 30sec exposures to stack, don't get a Sony.

Good Luck.

Wei-Hao
Thanks for the help, this is very helpful and disappointing (about Sony). I remember the Nikon's Star Eater back when I got my first DSLR. To bad about Sony because right now the A7's are the smallest and lightest Full Frames (that wont ask to make a living sacrifice to the dark forces to get lucky and be rich enough to afford a Leica) on the market.

The reason I emphasis so much on the choice of camera is that if I could afford a CCD dedicated for astroimaging and the hole telescopes and mounts for the best image quality possible. As is I am mostly a landscape and wildlife shooter so I want, need and like my gear to be as small and light as possible (the reason why I use Micro Four Thirds right now, I can have 14 to 600mm lenses and cameras in a 4 package of a total of 2 Kg with the camera too). If Sony is a no go then all is left is Fujifilm because I am looking at fast wide angle lenses besides ISO performance. And I guess I will have to look for small and light tracking mounts, something like this: https://www.astronomics.com/skytracker-camera-tracking-mount-with-tripod-and-polar-scope-white-finish_p20155.aspx

Now that Pentax K-1 Full Frame has been announced, with awesome 36 MP with now AA filter and 5 axis IBIS and up to 5 minutes Astrotracking (by moving the sensor like a tracking mount using the built in GPS)  and the usual best in it's class High ISO performance, that looks like the best option for a non CCD camera for astrophotography. If only I could justify a 5000 Kg  and 6850 $.

Fujifilm has some great and fast lenses for wide field astrophotohraphy like: Fujifilm 14mm f 2.8, 16mm f 1.4, 23mm f 1.4 and third party lenses too like: Samyang 8mm f 2.8 and Samyang 12mm f 2. Hmmmmm, choices, choices, choices.
bobzeq25
24 Feb, 2016 04:06
I have a Skytracker, like it a lot.  Search this site for skytracker, you'll see many examples.

I use it with a Nikon D5500, at 420g, it's light, and has an APS-C sensor.  One with high sensitivity and low noise.  Fairly inexpensive.  The old Nikon problems appear to be gone.  Lots of available lenses.

Much useful camera data applicable to astrophotography available here.

http://www.photonstophotos.net/
Edited 24 Feb, 2016 04:07
trombone76
28 Apr, 2016 05:41
Save up thee funds and get a hutech Canon 6D  camera. You'll be very happy with that DLSR.
Nevilleolivares
05 Oct, 2017 17:13
Very informative thread.
AMultiverse
06 Oct, 2017 03:27
There are basically 4 different kinds of astro-photography, and each one requires different equipment. Any attempt to try for a multi-function single system will result in so many compromises that you will be dissatisfied. The four kinds are:

Night sky photography: this one doesn't have a well recognized name settled on yet, so I really don't know what to call it. I have to describe it. Use a digital camera with manual settings, a very wide angle lens, and a fixed tripod to take pictures of the night sky mostly with foreground objects on the ground.

Planetary photography: Photographs of the Moon and larger planets in terms of angular size. Most any telescope and mount that is good for visual use plus a camera with a high resolution not so big sensor. The idea is to use as short exposure times as possible and lots of them so you can throw away most, and keeping only the best. This is called "lucky imaging". Most of the time one shot color cameras are used. The same set up is used for people who do scientific work on double stars.

Solar photography: Special filters for hydrogen, sodium, calcium, etc. require particular telescopes depending on the brand and model of the filter. Many telescopes are purchased built specifically for this purpose. Most people quickly lose interest in white light solar filters. Lucky imaging is usually used.

Deep sky photography: When you say astro-imaging, most people assume this is what you mean, however, it may be a bad assumption if you are thinking about one of the others. In this type of photography, the mount is everything. No matter what you use on a bad mount, the results will be disappointing. However, with short focal lengths trackers are both cheap and work well. So you don't have to spend thousands of dollars. Deep sky breaks down into two subcategories: big stuff and small stuff. Big stuff is bigger than the moon which is about 30 arcmins in diameter including large nebula, large galaxies, and large global clusters. Focal lengths of less then 1,000 mm are common. Focal lengths of 420 mm or less are what beginners should start with. Small stuff is mostly small galaxies and small planetary nebula. These are very difficult, and require very expensive equipment. Canon DSLR cameras are a good way to start on big stuff because there is the greatest software selection for both capture and post processing. Nikon is starting to get more software support. Mirrorless cameras are very difficult to use because of the lack of full featured remote control software. Those people who keep doing deep sky photography end up with monochrome cameras with filter wheels. Although CCD cameras are now the most popular, the new CMOS cameras are getting good, and are much cheaper.
JHolland
06 Oct, 2017 12:32
Great thread!
I am going to offer my opinion.

I would start with the DSLR and 100 - 300 mm lenses and get a mount that is overkill for it.  That way, you have a little room to grow as your skills develop and you desire to take longer focal length shots, you can do so without trading all of your equipment.  Also, you will enjoy the rock solid combination.

I have an Orion Atlas Pro and I use it with Canon DSLR and 135 mm lens, or an 80mm APO (less than 400mm focal length).  The mount capacity is 44 lbs and my heaviest photography set up approaches 16 lbs.  I recommend staying below 1/2 capacity for photography on a mount like this.  I did this thinking that I would have room to grow into something like an 8" RC or 115mm refractor etc.

At this point, I am happy with my set up and have a list of potential objects to shoot that will keep me busy for a long time.
Clear skies,
Jason
Nevilleolivares
26 Oct, 2017 10:26
Nice thread. very helpful.
Szumi
29 Oct, 2017 21:44
I think it is a great time.  DLSR's make taking images  cheap compared to film.  Then there is stacking and image processing.  I'm using a Canon camera and a 200 mm lens for my telescope using an iOptron Skytracker for a mount.  A laptop with Backyard EOS is next to it out side controlling the camera and I'm using TightVNC to run the laptop from my PC inside using the wireless network as the communication path.

After I collect a few frames, I upload them from the laptop to the desktop and start stacking and viewing.

I might as well  mention great tools like Stellarium, and Exsate on my phone.  Not to forget the various plate solvers.

I look forward to getting a goto Eq mount that will greatly help me locate bodies and allow me to use longer lenses while sitting indoors if the skeeters are out. smile
Argo
31 Oct, 2017 11:57
Very helpfull reading.So for beginners can be usefull a goto mount ,good reflex and telescope?
MrShelby
02 Apr, 2018 19:45
Still a valid question in 2018 lol. xD Also, click here.
Edited 15 Apr, 2018 12:52
morefield
03 Apr, 2018 01:31
I get that this is a DSLR thread but why would you not go with a full frame ZWO or 4/3s over a DSLR given the choice?
morefield
03 Apr, 2018 01:31
I get that this is a DSLR thread but why would you not go with a full frame ZWO or 4/3s over a DSLR given the choice?
 
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