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What lens for DSOs?

07 Jun, 2019 17:50
Hello, I'm new to astrophotography.
I have a question. I decided to use Nikon d3200 for Deep space like nebula. I found this telephoto lens to be good for my budget Nikkor 55-200mm f/4 vr. There is one same but with 70-300mm  and f/4.5. Is there so much difference between 300mm and 200mm? . is the 200mm f/4 good to image things like nebulas and some galaxies? Will I get good magnified images with 200mm f/4 with some processing? I heard some people say that it is quite good.
Like how much will they be magnified?
Can you provide me a picture of some deep space with 200mm f/4 if u can please?
Thanks alot smile
08 Jun, 2019 22:01
At 200mm (or 300mm), you would have a very wide field.  Too wide for all but the two or three largest galaxies.  But this would be a nice fit for large nebulae.

Try the website You can indicate your camera and lens and see visualizations of how various objects fit in that field of view (FOV).
10 Jun, 2019 09:36

I own the Nikkor 55/200 and I am not happy with it, at least not for astrophotography (it is very good for daylight photography). Too much distortion and too slow at f/5.6 which is what you get at 200mm.

In my opinion the best budget lens for Nikon is the Samyang 135mm f/2 ED which I also own. It has incredible light gathering capacity. More than both Nikkor lenses. Also its optical quality is incredible compared to the 55/200 (I don't know about the 300 but would be very surprise to see any variable lens outperform a prime).

From an applicable target point of view all three lenses are approximately the same. In theory the 300mm lens gives you larger magnification but not large enough to make an important difference as you will be targeting the same wide field subjects anyway (the Orion molecular complex, Antares region, the Andromeda Galaxy etc). The ability of the Samyang to collect more light with shorter exposures and the much clearer/less distorted detail you get from it are far more important than magnification for these subjects.

This photo is with the Nikkor 55-200:

This photo is with the Samyang 135mm:

They are not exactly the same number of subs but that's pretty much the point, with the 55-200 I realised very quickly that it was pointless going for more subs as the detail is horrible (compare the shape of the stars).

Edited 10 Jun, 2019 09:37
10 Jun, 2019 10:17
Thanks man, the samyang seems a bit expensive for me. What if I make long exposures with 200mm lens with EQ mount, and the process them? Will I get good results?
This was taken by 70-200mm @ f/5.6 49x 10sec lights, processed ect…

Also this (check it). It says it was taken by 80-200mm f/2.8 10 frames of 1min each processed also. Aren't they the same details?[gallery1627]/0

Also this, it was taken by 80-200mm f/2.8 set @f/4 60 frames of 1min processed ect…

Will I get like these images with the lens I mentioned?
Thanks alot for the help smile
11 Jun, 2019 16:38

The first photo is not 49 shots of 10 seconds but 49 shots of 120 seconds. I assure you that 120 seconds will give you very good results with any decent lens, but anything above 40 seconds it is not easy to achieve at 200mm. Also he is using a Canon EF 70-200mm which is more expensive than the Samyang (and three times more expensive than the Nikor 200).

The second picture has 1 minute shots and the photographer is using an EQ5 mount that costs more than 1000 dollars used, and the D7000 which is a prosumer level camera (better sensor than the D3200 and more expensive).

The third picture is using a Tamron 80-200mm lens set at f/4 (this is two time the light gathering of the Nikor 200 at 5.6) and an astro-modified Canon that is clearly more sensitive to Ha than a D3200, hence all that red.

So as you can see the 200mm focal lens is not the decisive factor behind those photos and all of them actually needed equipment that costs more than the Samyang.

The reason for this is tht deep sky objects are very faint. All other conditions being equal (light pollution, sky clarity and so on) you  need a _good_ tracking mount (more expensive for larger lenses), you need a good sensor, you need a good lens. The sum will be about the same, for example you can get a super lens that costs 1000 dollars and will collect the light that you need in 10 seconds or you can get an average lens that collects 10 times less light so now you need 100 seconds which means more dollars spent on the mount smile

In my opinion if you have to spend on something, the most important is the mount and the second most important is the lens. The mount gives you accurate tracking, even 30 seconds is a huge difference compared to 1 or 2 which is what you can do without a tracking mount at 200mm on a DX. The lens on the other hand, allows you to collect more light in less time. This is not just about the faintness of the target. If you have to take a 1 minute exposure it is more likely that some wind will blow and shake the camera, it is more likely that periodic errors on the mount will manifest, that an airoplane will pass, that atomspheric turbulence  will cause the stars to twinkle and so on.

Now, you are obviously a beginner (I do not mean to offend, I am a beginner too just a couple of years ahead smile ).

So my revised recommendation is don't worry too much about it. You *cannot* get photos like the one you sent me but the main reason is lack of practice and knowledge, not the equipment. You need to learn and you should not pay a fortune to learn.

So get the Nikkor 200mm, it is relatively good value for money (also excellent for daylight photography as I mentioned) and you will get decent photos especially on easy targets such as M42 or the Lagoon. Not as impressive as the ones you pasted here, but decent nevertheless. You will also get much better ultra wide field photos if you use it at 55-80 mm wide open, do not underestimate this category. If you can get to a dark location the photos can actually be quite good, I would say a dark location is 80% of the result and anything else combined is 20%. Learn to polar align, learn to post process, learn to find targets, learn about the moon, learn when the weather is good for photos and when it is not, learn from your mistakes. These are the important things. And after a few years if you see that this hobby is for you and you have the experience to know that your are truly limited by your lens or by the D3200, you can purchase or event rent something better. But it will be a different decision by then, an informed one. smile

16 Jul, 2019 06:48
dkamen this post is very enlightening for myself, a rank beginner with a Tamron 80-200 and a Sigma 150-600.  I am deciding on a mount with a limited resource.  I appreciate this post.  Thank you
18 Jul, 2019 21:15

I was in a very similar position regarding lens a few months ago when I first started Astro-imaging. I have to agree with all the comments made dkamen. I am using a Canon 650D and my new best friend is the Samyang 100mm ED USM f2.8 lens.  Yes, it is wide-field, but the image quality is superb. The other lens I use is the Canon 50mm (nifty 50). I should mention that both the camera and the lens are second hand and have proven to be both reliable and good value in terms of cost and performance. I also have the Canon 80-200mm EF, but the chromatic aberration is significant and I have stopped using it.

As dkamen has already mentioned stick with the lens you have and go for (i) a good tracking mount, (ii) sturdy tripod and (iii) consider getting your camera Astro-modified. On a practical note, get some good dew heaters as well.

The learning curve for Astro-imaging, although steep, is extremely rewarding and fun. The only way to improve is just to take a lot of images and practice the art of post-processing.

Neil, to give you an idea of what you can get with a basic set-up, I have included below a link to some of my first images. These were taken about a 1-2 months ago.

The tracking mount that I am using is the Sky Adventurer Mini from Skywatcher. It's a simple mount designed for travel. On a final note, rather than spending large amounts of money on lenses, invest in some good quality filters. The image below of the Crescent Nebula was captured a week ago, on the rare occasion of a clear sky. The image was taken using the 100mm Samyang and the 12nm Astrnomik Hydrogen Alpha filter.

If you type in "Canon 100mm" in the search criteria you will also get more examples of what sort of images can be captured with a 100mm lens.

Hope this helps.


Edited 18 Jul, 2019 21:17
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