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Best digital camera for taking pictures of the stars?

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posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:25 AM
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I am in the market for a new digital camera. One of the things I want to be able to do is take pictures of the northern lights this winter. The camera I currently own just cant do it. All I get is a black photo. Its a 4 mp, camera that has a built in flash. I am hoping someone can me some ideas of what I need to look for in a digital to be able to do this.




posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:28 AM
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Use film man, 1000 speed film and a camera with an adjustable shutter. If you can still find one, there are old 70mm cameras laying around, that would be a dandy for a long exposure of the night sky. I don't know of any digital cameras that are worth a crap in the dark.


jra

posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:35 AM
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Well if you really want to use digital, you have to find something that can do long exposures. Generally your average digital point and shoot won't do much. I have a Canon A510 and it does a max of 30seconds. That doesn't really cut it.

I'd have to agree and go with twitchy's advice and use film. Although i'm not sure if that was a typo about the 1000 speed film. Personally i'd go with 100iso or lower. It won't get grainy that way. But yeah you could probably find a good used camera. An SLR style camera would probably be good, since you can leave the shutter open as long as you like (at least with mine you can). It also allows you to change to differnt sized lenses. You could get a digital SLR, but then you're looking at a $5000 price tag.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:38 AM
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So being able to take pictures of the stars or northern lights depends on the exposure time? I feared the answer would end up being film. I would prefer to stay away from it and was hoping there would be a reasonably priced digital out there that could do it.


jra

posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:53 AM
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Well I was just reading that for photographing the northern lights, you need about 10 to 15 seconds, but longer would probably be better depending on the brightness. But perhaps a digital point and shoot may work.

So there are some things for you to look for before you buy.
-Shutter speeds. Something that can at least do a 30sec exposure. And that also has some manual control, so you can just set it to what you want.
- ISO settings. This simulates film speed. Make sure the camera will let you adjust it manually, so you can drop it to 100iso. The higher the number, the more light will expose, but it will be very grainy/noisey.

What is your camera anyway just out of curiosity? Also here's a great camera review site. www.dpreview.com...



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 12:58 AM
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Thank you for the information. The camera I currently own is a Fuji Fine Pixs 4 mega pixel digital. It does great in normal circmstances.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 01:01 AM
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Consumer digital cameras are just no good for night time photography -- I've tried quite a few and in all honesty a $40.00 35mm camera takes astronomically (excuse the pun) better images than a $400 digital camera.


Although, if you have the bucks, people do get great results with the higher end Nikon digital cameras. (Nikon 995 star photos for example). I'd poke around on a number of astronomy websites and see what the users are using -- that is your best source of information on what cameras (and lenses) to get. StarGazing has a good example of what end-users are doing with digital cameras.

Nikon, Konica and Cannon all make really nice mid-high end digital cameras that work well with telescopes for astronomical photography.

Maybe you're more interested in a CCD camera if you're going to go gung-ho into stellar photography. I'd start with this great page on CCD imagry and educate yourself on the subject, then move to user groups and then finally decide what is the best solution you can get with your budget.

But regardless of what camera you choose, the main rule to remember when picking your scope is 'light gathering is king' -- never look at magnification. Your best bang for the buck is a dobsonian, your next best bang for your buck (including features) is a Schmidt-Cassegrain -> Maksutov -> reflector -> refractor (in that order, and in my opinion). But, your Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes are going to be the easiest/cheapest to use for taking photos.

I'm sure others here may have similar or perhaps conflicting opinions, but do take the time to educate yourself on what it is you are buying, and what your best options are for the $$ you have available. If you don't have a 10 inch scope, get the scope before the camera! If you already have a decent scope (8 inch reflector/dob/etc) find out what is your best option for it camera-wise (you're also going to have to spend $100-$200 on adapters and lenses for your scope/camera).

Hope this was in some way helpful for you! Once you start looking at the stars, you find you just want to go looking more and more often. Once you look at the stars with your own >8 inch dob (or other reflector) you're hooked for life.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 01:05 AM
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Originally posted by CatHerder
Consumer digital cameras are just no good for night time photography -- I've tried quite a few and in all honesty a $40.00 35mm camera takes astronomically (excuse the pun) better images than a $400 digital camera.


Although, if you have the bucks, people do get great results with the higher end Nikon digital cameras. (Nikon 995 star photos for example). I'd poke around on a number of astronomy websites and see what the users are using -- that is your best source of information on what cameras (and lenses) to get. StarGazing has a good example of what end-users are doing with digital cameras.

Nikon, Konica and Cannon all make really nice mid-high end digital cameras that work well with telescopes for astronomical photography.

Maybe you're more interested in a CCD camera if you're going to go gung-ho into stellar photography. I'd start with this great page on CCD imagry and educate yourself on the subject, then move to user groups and then finally decide what is the best solution you can get with your budget.

But regardless of what camera you choose, the main rule to remember when picking your scope is 'light gathering is king' -- never look at magnification. Your best bang for the buck is a dobsonian, your next best bang for your buck (including features) is a Schmidt-Cassegrain -> Maksutov -> reflector -> refractor (in that order, and in my opinion). But, your Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes are going to be the easiest/cheapest to use for taking photos.

I'm sure others here may have similar or perhaps conflicting opinions, but do take the time to educate yourself on what it is you are buying, and what your best options are for the $$ you have available. If you don't have a 10 inch scope, get the scope before the camera! If you already have a decent scope (8 inch reflector/dob/etc) find out what is your best option for it camera-wise (you're also going to have to spend $100-$200 on adapters and lenses for your scope/camera).

Hope this was in some way helpful for you! Once you start looking at the stars, you find you just want to go looking more and more often. Once you look at the stars with your own >8 inch dob (or other reflector) you're hooked for life.


Once again another excellent post cat herder. You are a wealth of knowledge. As much as it pains me to say this. I never even thought about a scope.
I was simply thinking point and shoot but it appears its much more then that. As far as budget goes I was looking in the 5-600 price range for a camera

[edit on 11-8-2005 by Whompa1]



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 01:29 AM
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1000 speed film is the way to go... Sure, it's grainy, but you still get some AMAZING pictures. If you can't handle the graininess, try 400.

And as others have said, it's the exposure time that decided how much shows up.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 01:48 AM
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You can use nearly every webcam on a telescope too.

I first had a Logitech Quickcam 4000 Pro (capable of recording 640*480*32 video at 60FPS and 1280*960*32 pictures) and used software like Star Track to compose high quality images from 640*480*32 video streams and 1280*960*32 stills.

The first step to use webcams on telescopes is to take of the webcams own IR filter and use your telescopes IR filter or record IR light too(to get extra light), webcam filters are usualy a bit to robust.
You can also just NOT use an IR filter, if your telescope focuses IR correctly. To get extra light.

Any high quality CCD webcam will do really and best is if you can adjust its shuttertime.

Apps like Star Track have interfaces to connect your telescopes electronic tracker directly to the application, so that you can for instance track Mars all nigh long, record video of it all night long and then compose several composite images from the video lateron.

transitofvenus.auckland.ac.nz...
Shows pritty nicely what quality you can get with a cheap webcam.

homepage.ntlworld.com...
Shows how you can modify an old Philips Vesta MK1 webcam to have long and application controllable shutter times and how to build good astrology grade enclosures for it.

I've moved on from using webcams to using a full fledged 3.1 Mpixel CCD digital video camera and 7.1 Mpixel CCD digital photo camera. I'm currently saving up for a new telescope, but I expect to get some nifty good images with the new cams I bought.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 01:54 AM
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Don't I feel like the ass. I just gave away to my next door neigbor (month ago), my Pentax P50 with three lenses, one being 230MM matrix telephoto - why, 'cause I bought a Digital still/video camera ! After reading through the above, don't I feel like the complete fool.

Dallas



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 02:06 AM
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It is quite strange, Cos' did you know that the best cameras in the world are about 100-140 megapixels accurate... However they ahve a downside.. you ahve to ahve a laptop with you, and the target that you photographing must not move for 18 minutes...



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 02:08 AM
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Dallas... Gave away? Gave away? *mutters to self*

FIN, we're talking amateur stuff here!



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 02:16 AM
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Here's a site I found a few months back and have bookmarked. Some really beautiful photos linked, enjoy


www.northern-lights.no...

[edit on 11-8-2005 by Britguy]



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 06:33 AM
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The Canon EOS 300D is a very popular camera among amateur astrophotographers on a budget. Its still almost $1,000, but considering that a dedicated CCD setup for astrophotography can run close to $10,000, well...you get the idea.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 02:27 PM
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Like others said
Film is probably best.
I've used film, super high speed.
But you don;t really know what you have, until you develop it.
A lot of photo places have trouble developing the film, because some
of their machines have can 't see the transistion from one pic to the next, in order to cut it..

But Digital gives you the ability to see if your shot was a good one..
And obviously, you can erase what you don't want, make room for more attempts.

Here's a couple taken with my Sony f707.
It IS limited to 30 seconds of exposure..but without a clock drive
anything more, is too long anyway, the stars begin to leave trails.

First one is a meteor streak, the Geminid shower from last year.
Second one is a Satellite trail.






These images aren't perfect..
But I can tell you I had LOTS of fun attempting these, and I think they turned out pretty decent..



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 02:31 PM
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(Laugh!), Yah great ! but what's with the UFOs pictured? Seems to me mayhaps we need a digital camera when switching from star shots to EBE shots - yes?

Dallas



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 03:00 PM
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Originally posted by spacedoubt
But you don;t really know what you have, until you develop it.
A lot of photo places have trouble developing the film, because some
of their machines have can 't see the transistion from one pic to the next, in order to cut it..


A simple solution to that is to send it out or find a place that specifically develops astrophotography. If you don't want to do that you can always wash out an exposure between dark ones by shining a flashlight into the camera.



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 08:14 PM
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cmdrkeenkid,

I agree there..and at this point in time, for superior resolution, and no pixel bleed ..Film is still king

But then again, you don't have instant results,
And film costs money. As does the developing of the film.

I can't tell you how much I've learned by being able to immediately
see my last image, then make adjustments accordingly..



posted on Aug, 11 2005 @ 08:39 PM
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I have a Nikon 990 which is a 3.3 Mp camera, and, with the fisheye attachment, I can shoot the entire 180 degree night sky. But it's going to be difficult to get just stars, since themaximum shutter speed is 8 seconds.

Of course, you'll need a tripod and a shutter release cable, but you still don't have the "bulb" capabilities that a good old-fashioned manual film camera has.




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