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What equipment is needed to photograph the heavens?

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posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 11:15 AM
Good day everyone. I have a problem here and I'm hoping to find some help in the forum most focused on the area I'm trying to accomplish something for. I'm in college for Graphics Design and a fair portion of my program this year deals with Digital Photography and editing. Here is what I'd love some advice on, with that in mind....

What do I need, as a base line set of equipment to shoot decent pictures of things close in and big? Say... the moon and/or the larger satellites that are so/so on actually seeing with the naked eye. I don't even want to pretend I know the subject here because I don't when it comes to hardware for what I'd like to toy with. I have a DSLR with a 200m lens. It isn't a cheapy but it's not in the class of the Canon D series either....

Can I do anything with the higher end of the consumer cameras or is this going to require professional DSLR equipment? Am I even in the ballpark, or will a telescope also be required for something worth putting time into for lunar pics, for example? (Solar come to mind as well, when I get the required filters) I figure anything beyond the Moon will be telescope territory, but can I realistically accomplish anything short of that investment?

Any suggestions are appreciated! I have a budget to work with, but it's not a huge one.. Figure something in the 1-2 thousand range, and going to the high end depends entirely on how much bang I'd get for the buck.

posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 11:41 AM
If you have a telescope with a camera attachment you should be able to buy a "T-mount"for your specific camera-this allows you to use the telescope as a lens.
For your budget you could get a nice meade or celestron scope with planet/galaxy tracking capability.

Here are a couple of links explaining how to get good shots,and discussing equipment:

The moon is a great place to start,as you can get good single photos or even video,but to take pics of galaxies/nebulae you need to have a telescope with tracking,and you need to take multiple shots which are then stacked using imaging software-this "adds up" all the light from each image and you end up with a clear picture of a distant galaxy.

I have a meade ETX 125 scope,which cost about £700,and soon I will be getting a canon 550D which I will connect to the scope.Here are some shots taken with that type of scope by folks who really know what they are doing:
Awesome or what?

Best of luck with it!

edit on 1/2/2012 by Silcone Synapse because: added link

posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 11:57 AM
A 200m lens? What do you carry that thing with, a semitruck? You'll have to rent Mt. Palamos to use that!

On topic: There are three major factors to astrophotography.

1. Aperature size.
2. Mount stability.
3. Post processing software.

If you want moon/sattelite pictures, I'd recommend no less than a 6 inch aperature for your scope. Rough price, ebay/amazon is about 150 to 200. They sell adaptors to mount your 200mm lens to, and you would use your dslr for your viewfinder. Add another thirty.

Shooting the moon can be a bit tricky, as it moves very fast, and just won't hold still. You'd need an auto tracking motor, another thirty.

Post processing software is free, I use Registax. What that software does is nothing short of amazing. You shoot several consecutive pics, and load them into the program, and the software removes the noise and compiles a summary of the pics, based on a set of predefined parameters.

I'd estimate around 300 total to get started with what you want to do.

Just be careful....the first time you see the moon CLOSE UP, it takes your breath away.

posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 12:09 PM
Thank you both for the great information and suggestions. You've both mentioned things I hadn't considered. Specifically, I didn't realize the moon moved 'fast' to the view of a camera. When I said I'm starting from zero on knowledge for this, I wasn't kidding.
It also makes sense now as to how normal backyard folk get pictures of some very impressive things out beyond the moon. My Photo class starts late this afternoon and I'm going to ask about the compilation method. That explains a lot that my mind wasn't quite wrapping around for how it must work to get the shots.

I wasn't sure what kind of reply I'd get in asking this to the general community but I am glad I did. I have enough to get started and know where to begin. Thanks!

Oh..If anyone else wants to add more, please feel free. I'll keep checking back on this one for quite some time for anything new.

posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 12:13 PM
I tried DSLR for a while, but the battery kept dying on me, (especially in the winter), and I could not keep the aperture open as long as I wanted. I went back to an old manual Pentax. Let us know how it goes.

posted on Feb, 1 2012 @ 02:34 PM
If your budget allows you to go as high as 2000, I can put together an equipment list that would approximate my setup. The sky's the limit at that point. Lunar, planetary, solar (with additional full aperture filters), deep space, even satellites, no problem. The catch is that there's a learning curve, but if you're patient you can make some great shots.

First you need a base telescope on which more telescopes and cameras can be mounted. I use and love the 8" LX200. The 8" uses the same gear system used for the 10" and 12" models, so it has plenty of extra payload capacity to spare.
Here's a classic 8" for $1,200:
I would recommend keeping an eye on the used market, but aim to spend between $1,000-1,400 on the scope. $1,200 is fair price imho.
For long exposures of deep space objects you'll need an equatorial wedge, figure about $170:
For autoguiding and widefield imaging I use one of these, a simple achromat, but it's surprisingly good for $120: c/10/sc/346/p/9948.uts
Of course, you need a way of mounting it on your LX200, so you need to get these parts as well:
Dovetail plate ($69):
Dovetail adapter (you need 2 for a total of $50):
Rings ($20):
To offset the weight of the 80mm scope you need a counterweight system ($125):
And to autoguide you need an autoguider (since you already have a DSLR, you might find this to be your best option, $239):
Final price? $1,993. This is essentially my setup with a few slight changes. I've spent way more than this over the years experimenting with various things that didn't work, but for just under $2,000 you can replicate what I use now for still photography (I also do a lot of deep space video, but that's a separate issue). With this you can photograph not just the moon and solar system but deep space especially well. For the planets I'd recommend getting a dedicated solar system imager, either webcam based or video camera based (the SDC-435 does quite well). That will require the use a laptop in the field though.
edit on 1-2-2012 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 4 2012 @ 11:49 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Get yourself a 400mm 5.6 (or rent one) and a teleconverter. You will also need a good tripod/head + cable release (cheap Chinese versions off Ebay work fine). That may be all you need for the moon, depending exactly what kind of shot you have in mind.

You don't need fast (large aperture) lenses to photograph the moon, which is very bright. Even a "mirror lens" would do, and possibly give you better results (longer focal length for your money) than regular "glass lenses".

What kind of shot are you trying to get of a satellite?

If you want a stationary "snap" of it showing detailed structure, the 400mm + TC might get you that if you pointed it at the ISS, although a longer lens would be better, but they do start to get extensive above 400mm. A 500mm 5.6+ lens might be a better bet. You can get adapters that will fit virtually any other lens mount to your Canon. I also use Canon DSLRs together with lenses from otter manufacturers without any problem.

If you want to capture a streak as the satellite passes overhead (long exposure), wide, normal and even telephoto lenses can accomplish this without any trouble, providing they are reasonably fast/have a reasonably large aperture. A 50mm 1.8 would be my recommendation for this kind of shot, if you don't want to spend too much.

Objects that are further away from the moon are certainly not "telescope only territory". Normal camera lenses can be just as effective, although they are not usually as well corrected for astronomical photography in terms of aberrations as regular camera lenses.

posted on Feb, 4 2012 @ 11:57 AM

Originally posted by Toromos
I tried DSLR for a while, but the battery kept dying on me, (especially in the winter), and I could not keep the aperture open as long as I wanted.

Yes, that can be a problem. I get around it by using a 12v DC lead acid battery + DC>AC inverter + AC adapter for the camera. It works well, but the weight of the batteries makes it a lot of hassle.

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