Suggestion for DSLR & Astrophotography

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Suggestion for DSLR & Astrophotography

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Hello Crutchfield Community!

I've been an amature astronomer for a number of years now and I want to start getting into astrophotography. However, the more I research DSLR cameras, the more I am finding that I am completely lost when it comes to terminology.

I can get a lens mount for pretty much any main brand DSLR out there (Sony [Minolta mount], Nikon and Cannon mostly - not sure about Pentax) so that's not much of a concern. What I have been trying to figure out is what makes a digital camera good at low-light and long exposure. Surprisingly, there is very little in reviews and articles about this aspect of photography. 

I'm looking into low- to mid-ranged ($500-1,100 depending on what's included) DSLRs that would be good at long exposure pictures in low-lighting situations. Or at least that's what I am assuming. Most of the articles you can find about astrophotography are a bit outdated and many still refer to classic film. But in general, you need something that can do low-light and long exposure.

From what I have been seeing for exposure is that no DSLR that I have looked at has a spec for the shutter remaining open longer than 30 seconds. Through the articles I've read, to get really detailed pictures you need to keep the shutter open for anywhere between 3 to 15 minutes depending on what exactly you're photographing. I'm not sure if this is a limitation of digital cameras or if it's an inherent difference of digital capture vs. film. 

Also, I'm not sure if it's possible, do can any digital camera support non-visible colors like infrared, etc? This is more of curiosity than anything else. I imagine that they'd be extremely expensive.

Thanks so much in advance!

Verified Answer
  • Your timing is impeccable. Canon just announced an astrophotography version of their 60D, called the 60Da. They've modified the IR filter so you can photograph red hydrogen nebulae and other such formations. Another nice thing is the 60Da has a swiveling screen, so you can look at it while you're camera's pointing up. I think the price is in the $1500 range.

    No idea if we'll carry it or not, I tend to think not. Canon's press release has more info on this.

    There is also a 20Da from 7 years ago - they'll get really cheap on Ebay once the 60Da arrives. Look that one up, it's similar but with less megapixels and an older sensor.

    Most (if not all) DSLRs have a "Bulb" setting that lets you keep the shutter open as long as you want. You'll need a remote shutter release to do it. Look for a "B" on the dial. A prime lens with a wide aperture (F/2 and less) is probably ideal, too.



    [edited by: ZakB at 2:22 PM (GMT -5) on Thu, Apr 5 2012]
All Replies
  • Not my area, but a google search turned up this site: http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/QUICK.HTM

    Hope This Helps!!!

    Anyone else have suggestions?

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • Thank you :)

    It's actually one of the resources I was referring to. The content is pretty outdated though and doesn't cover a lot of the newer advances in technology. I've been debating on the book was published in 2009. Granted that's not horribly old, but even I can see how much more advanced and cost effective DSLRs have gotten since then.

    Looks like it's going to be one of my best bets though, so maybe I'll give it a try.

    Basically it says to look for the lowest aperture, longest exposure and play around with the ISO to find the right balance.  Problem with the aperture though, is it appears to be only associated with the lens itself and mounting kits for a telescope you don't use a lens (or you could say the telescope is the lens).

  • I am WAAY out of my element here ...

    You might want to friend ZakB and send him a conversation/PM and ask his opinion.

    He covers most of the camera stuff for Crutchfield.

    I'm mostly car stereo, although I did have a film SLR camera back in the 80's.

    From what I picked up from the article.

    • Aperture is definitely a property of the lens, although CMOS sensor size (larger is better) might be helpful in DSLR's.
    • Exposure - The article I linked implied most cameras had a "Bulb" or manual setting.  Seems like it might be trial and error to get the right exposure length - although it was with film cameras except that you couldn't just erase a bad decision.
    • ISO - this was determined by the film (physical property), but with DSLR's it seems to have to do with light compensation.
    • Critical factor seems to be more the telescope and it's mount and how well it can keep the camera steady while still tracking the subject you are photographing.

    Hope This Helps!!!

    Anyone else have suggestions?

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • Yeah, I took photography classes back in Highschool on Nikon SLRs and I have some memory of all the photo geek speak. I just have no idea how to relate those needs into being able to tell what camera will handle it better.

    Tracking really isn't too much of an issue per se. If you get really into deep-space viewing and bought your scope in the last few years - it probably already does it through computer/motorized mounts. With the last roll out of most major models, even the base-line scopes include the mount at nearly no extra cost at all. Plus, it also really depends on what you're trying to photography but that's a big ol' conversation because you get into size, distance, angle/location relative to you and brightness and how quickly something will shift from our perspective. Quickest example is to take the North Star (Polaris) which barely moves at all in the sky but something like Cluster M22 has relatively short visibility because of it being more aligned with our equator.  

    And I have no idea why I did not think about this before and it's 99% of the reason I have been looking into DSLRs ha ha ha

    So, there are few telescope CMOS/CCD plates that you can get and they're insanely drastic in price/features. You have the $100 or so option which is little more than comparing it to a web cam from 5 or 6 years ago, immediately next being the $1200 option which still has a smaller plate than most DSLRs.

    What made me really start looking though was that in all of these telescope plates they talk about how the plate will stay cool over long-term exposure... which is why I think that none of the DSLRs have a max open shutter of more than 30sec; they start to overheat. But I have no idea about that, it was just an assumption and why I started looking into DSLR in the first place. I figured if I'm going to drop a grand, I might as well and get a good camera that I could use elsewhere if I wanted to.

     

  • I'd find a Nikon dealer and ask questions. I had an 8008 years ago and found my local camera shop to be very knowledgeable. Of course, if you pick their brain you should give them your business, even if it costs a few bucks more.

         RESIma

  • Your timing is impeccable. Canon just announced an astrophotography version of their 60D, called the 60Da. They've modified the IR filter so you can photograph red hydrogen nebulae and other such formations. Another nice thing is the 60Da has a swiveling screen, so you can look at it while you're camera's pointing up. I think the price is in the $1500 range.

    No idea if we'll carry it or not, I tend to think not. Canon's press release has more info on this.

    There is also a 20Da from 7 years ago - they'll get really cheap on Ebay once the 60Da arrives. Look that one up, it's similar but with less megapixels and an older sensor.

    Most (if not all) DSLRs have a "Bulb" setting that lets you keep the shutter open as long as you want. You'll need a remote shutter release to do it. Look for a "B" on the dial. A prime lens with a wide aperture (F/2 and less) is probably ideal, too.



    [edited by: ZakB at 2:22 PM (GMT -5) on Thu, Apr 5 2012]