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FILM for Astrophotography

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#1 ClownFish

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 04:47 AM

Hey folks, a lot of beginners have not been using the best film for this hobby, and then getting frustrated by the poor results. Do not think that you need high speed (800 ASA) or better film. These speeds are designed for shutter speeds of 2 seconds or less, and have little correlation during long exposures. They also have very large film grain, which makes for poor enlargements.

You need a film with several properties.

1. Small grain. This makes your images sharp, and allows nice enlargements.
2. Excellent RED response. While there are a lot of blue and some green objects in the sky, RED is the one that is most common, and also easily lost with a poor choice of film. This is because the RED spectrum is near the end of the film's sensitivity and film makers often chop it off as unnecessary. They do not care that most of your subjects glow in the deep reds of Hydrogen Alpha. Some films do not even record this all-important spectrum at all! So you need a film that has good blue and green, but also very good response with REDS.
3. Limited Reciprocity Failure. When you shoot a normal object in daylight, if you decrease the amount of light coming in to the camera you can increase the exposure time to compensate. This is reciprocity. However, at long exposures, film tends to FAIL in this regard. This means that if a subject is very dim, a MUCH longer exposure is required to capture it. It also means that what you see in a 10 minute exposure may not be much different than in a 20! On the other hand, if you use a film with LOW reciprocity failure, you will be able to expose longer, AND capture more.

So which films are best?

First I recommend slide film. This requires the least amount of control by an unknowledgeable developer. But more importantly, there just are not many excellent color print films out there. Most have very poor blue and red response in the important wavelengths needed for astrophotography. There are a few color print films that will work, but they are very hard to locate, and require you to HYPERSENSITIZE them by baking them in forming gas (an advanced technique to reduce the reciprocity failure).

My recommendations:

- Kodak Elite Chrome 200 (E200). This film has amazing red response, way down to the Hydrogen Alpha line and produces deep cherry red nebula. It's also very fine grain, and has very low RF. It does suffer slightly in blue response.
- Fujichrome 400F Provia (or Fujichrome Sensia II 400). These have very good color response in blue and red! It also has fine grain, not as fine as E200, but very good. The film also has low RF and can capture below magnitude 18 in 25 minutes at f/4. This is my all-time favorite film.

The best way to stay on top of the changing world of astrophotography films, subscribe to the Astrophotography Mailing List Archives.

Clear Sky to yah!

CF


#2 Kieken

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 06:06 AM

For the moment I use Fujifilm Superia 800 X-tra but the next time I pay a visit at the local shop I think I'll ask for one of the films you mentioned :).

#3 Snow dog

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 07:53 PM

Thanks for the info CF.

#4 CharlieInDayton

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 06:43 PM

Dear Clown (it feels so odd to be addressing someone like that)...may I call you CF?

While I've got a little time and even one award for astrophotography under my belt (and that award was pure luck, lemme tell ya), I never pass up a chance to pick someone's brain.

Camera -- Pentax K 1000
Lens -- could be one of many, depending on how adventurous/inventive I'm feeling
Current films of choice -- at this point, I've been concentrating mostly on just getting a decent image, so it's been off-the-rack drugstore stuff...mostly Walgreen's 400 color print film (which I am fairly sure is just store-name Fuji).
My developing is done at a one-hour photo place south of town, where the machine operator has been trained by some of the Cincinnati boys in how to properly develop astrophotographs -- don't cut the negatives, proper color balance to get a real night sky color, etc.

1) For the moment, I'm just going to stay with the print film until I get closer to where I want.
2) Film speed recommendations? I've been using 400, but 200 and 100 are just as easily available, and my developer has no trouble with them.
3) Can slide films be developed at these one-hour places? I wouldn't need 'em printed, I can have the guy make me hi-res CDs of the images without spending too much money.
4) I don't have the gear for really long time exposures, but I do have a motor-drive tripod that everyone around here says I could get 3 to 4 minutes out of before things start to trail. That's next summer's project -- right now, I'm going for some lunar photos with lenses/scopes that wouldn't require tracking -- in my neck of the woods, I can get away with up to 30 seconds exposure of ecliptic stars before things start to trail.

An example of my 400 speed work can be found here -- please note the Moon shot. A tripod mount for steadiness, a little more focus work, some experimentation with exposures...
What might I expect by changing film speeds?
And I have a couple of sample books from makers of theatrical spotlight filters (these sample books are maybe 1 1/2" x 3" x hundreds of 'pages' thick -- I have what seems to be every shade and density made to play with. Any recommendations on start points for color etc?

I can easily blow off a few rolls of film just to see what happens -- and yes, I do keep a logbook of everything like this that I shoot.

So...any and all tips you can throw my way on this would be greatly appreciated.

#5 JBull

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 11:10 PM

I chose Fuji Superia Xtra 800 film based on a film test I read on the web. 19 different color negative films were tested. The Fuji Superia Xtra 800 had the best red response (650 and 660 nm) and lowest reciprocity failure of all the films tested for astrophotography. The test results are at http://www.robertreeves.com/colneg.htm
However I have learned that Fuji has changed their emulsion for this film and greatly reduced the red response at the desired wavelength. It seems like the film emulsions change frequently and usually for the worse.
Next roll of film I get will be Kodak E200.

#6 JBull

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 12:40 AM

Here are the responses of various films at the Hydrogen alpha wavelength of 656nm which is very important for astrophotography. As posted by Clownfish the Kodak E200 slide film has excellent qualities. I put this together from various film spec sheets. The red line in each represents 656nm. I could not find a spec sheet for Kodak royal gold.


Posted Image

#7 Big Dipper

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 10:39 AM

I fully agree with CF's comments. E200 has been the leading film of choice for astrophotography for several years now. One of the leading APML leaders, Jerry Lodriguss, has a page on the best films for astrophotography. You may wish to check it out at http://www.astropix....ROP/I04/I04.HTM

#8 giorgosgr

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 06:24 PM

Fuji Superia 1600 isn't bad at all!
Fast, small grain, and good red sensitivity.I have taken nice piggybacks with it.It records red nebulae quite well!

Attached Thumbnails

  • 782120-Fuji_1600.JPG


#9 ClownFish

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 09:16 PM

Small grain? How does it compare with E200 or 400F Provia?

#10 giorgosgr

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 06:13 AM

Bigger grain of course,but very good for a 1600 ASA film.It's also easier to find (at least in this country!) and cheaper.It deserves a try IMHO.I wonder why this film has been neglected by astrophotographers.
You can see one of my piggybacks here:
http://www.cloudynig...th_america1.jpg

#11 pietruck

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:07 PM

Can you shoot the moon in black and white?

Because I have 30 some odd rolls of it in my freezer.

Thanks

Ryan

#12 TxStars

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:08 AM

You have 30 rolls of which film in the freezer?

Tec-Pan 2415 *Now discontinued* was a great film for the moon...
Many other B&W films work well for the moon...

#13 ClownFish

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:52 AM

Tech-Pan 2415 was not just for the moon... It was, and is, one of the best films for Hydrogen Alpha shots - but required "hyping" to shorten exposures. If you have rolls of 2415 in the freezer, you can sell it pretty easy on-line. It's now out-of-production.

CF

#14 pietruck

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:21 AM

Just plain old T-max 400.

Is that suitable?

Thanks

Ryan

#15 ClownFish

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 07:47 AM

That's not very good for deep sky stuff (no Ha response), better for moon like you said.

#16 dereeves

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 06:22 AM

What is a good film for Solar pics?

#17 ClownFish

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 06:40 AM

Just about anything will work... but the finer the grain the better.
This usually means the slower films.

CF

#18 dereeves

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 07:43 AM

thank you clownfish.

#19 LT_Ng

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 09:20 AM

I am also a fan of astrophotography with films, but so sad that films are "dying out"!

Would like to share you with my experience too.

1. For clusters or galaxies, may choose Fuji Superia 400 or 800 press. Superia series has very good contrast performance and also finer grain than others of same speed.

2. For comets, Kodak E200 or Fuji Provia 400F

3. For star field, E200 or E100, if you can find it.

4. For Ha emission nebulae, E200.

Clear skies,

LT

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#20 Jerry J

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 09:22 PM

I recently used the Sensia 200 slide film and was experimenting with some filters for the heck of it. What i got back was great, it had awsome response to Ha. I'm still not sure how sensitive it is to the violet end of the spectrum but I'm very happy with the red response. The last roll I used was the Provia 400f, as soon as I return home and go thru the slides I may just post a few, if some turned out like I hope.
Jerry

#21 microbes

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 06:56 AM

Fuji Superia 1600 isn't bad at all!



Where are you buying it? My local Walmart carries the Superia 400 and 800 and I would like to at least try the 1600 but I can't find it anywhere local. (I can't find slide film locally either).

I do live in a backwoods part of Florida, I'm sure that if I wanted to make a trip to tampa everytime I bought film I could find it. But driving 75 miles each way to buy film seems a bit much. Are you mail ordering it?

(I'm glad to see other people recommending Superia, it may not be as sweet as some slide films, but it seems to be as good a print film as you can get)

#22 JackProton

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 11:04 AM

Fuji Superia 1600 isn't bad at all!



Where are you buying it? My local Walmart carries the Superia 400 and 800 and I would like to at least try the 1600 but I can't find it anywhere local. (I can't find slide film locally either).

I do live in a backwoods part of Florida, I'm sure that if I wanted to make a trip to tampa everytime I bought film I could find it. But driving 75 miles each way to buy film seems a bit much. Are you mail ordering it?


I picked some up on Amazon.com and www.bhphotovideo.com. My local camera shop also carries it (and they'll order stuff they don't stock for you if you ask). Haven't seen it at Target or CVS.

#23 microbes

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 01:21 PM

www.bhphotovideo.com.



I should have thought about them. I just ordered a lens adaptor from them. They have about anything you want for a film camera.

They are a little high on the price of the Superia 800, I've been buying that at walmart for about $8.50 for 4 rolls, they get $4 a roll + s&h.

#24 JackProton

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 02:37 PM

www.bhphotovideo.com.



I should have thought about them. I just ordered a lens adaptor from them. They have about anything you want for a film camera.

They are a little high on the price of the Superia 800, I've been buying that at walmart for about $8.50 for 4 rolls, they get $4 a roll + s&h.


That's not just B&H -- the price of boxed single rolls of anything is pretty much always much higher than in the consumer 3/4/5 packs of film. I did a quick search and single rolls of Superia 800 are going for a minimum of $3.76+shipping across the web (discounting the fly-by-night shops).

Superia 1600 seems to typically go for roughly $5 a roll on the web and doesn't come in multipacks. I think I paid about $6 for it at a physical Ritz Camera shop.

#25 Jerry J

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 05:33 PM

www.adorama.com

They have just about every type of film there and the prices are not too bad, heck of a lot cheaper than most photo shops.


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