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A case for Micro Four Thirds in Astrophotography

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#1 jammeymc

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 01:41 PM

A case for Micro Four Thirds in Astrophotography (Reference: Current 16mp and 20mp MFT sensors)

 

Resolution is something that most photographers like, and for AP, it really helps in the end if you have room to play while maintaining a certain level of quality in your work flow. AP, as I’ve learned, is an expensive pursuit. When one tries to match flawless full frame optics with full frame sensors, the sticker shock is a gut check. The idea of full frame talk has always seemed, well, misunderstood to me. For AP, regardless of full frame, APS-C, or MFT, I believe it’s better to think in terms of Field of View. If you do this, and tune out the format loyalist pundits, you will not only save a mortgage worth of money, you may in fact find an unmatched quality point. I love my A7S, mostly due to it’s live view capabilities, but if I were to start all over (or advise someone) with AP investments, I would procure my optics based off Micro Four Thirds FOV. I’ve been evaluating Micro Four Thirds since they were released into the market. For general photography, there is an element of out of focus areas and depth of field aspects that MFT differs from FF. These points are valid for general use. For AP, these points are void and you are left with a single difference, FOV. For the newer models, there are always going to be slight response/performance differences between every camera model. The slight variations might be a deal breaker for some, but for all of my MFT/APS-C/FF cameras, in the end, these differences are relatively unnoticeable and therefore I exclude these small differences as it relates to the end finished product. Some will say that MFT is just a crop. This is true, and only true, if the sensors are of the exact same characteristics. Case in point : my 16mp MFT Olympus’s are completely different than my 12mp FF A7S. The quality of a MFT FOV cropped A7S file is nowhere even close to the quality of a native MFT Olympus 16mp capture. Not only is the quality different, the obvious difference in resolution is apparent. Even a MFT crop of, for instance, a A6000 24MP sensor is not the same as an Olympus 16mp MFT native capture. It’s more likely that the statement “A MFT is simply a FF crop” is NOT true than to find that it is true. Think of it this way, what would it take for the statement “A MFT is simply a crop of a FF” to be true as it relates to my Olympus 16mp sensor? Hold on tight – it would require a 88.5 mp FF sensor. How many of those do you see available on the market? This should put the MFT 16mp sensors into a new perspective for you.

 

Back to optics. In most circumstances, in order to get a completely flat full frame, it requires a lot of $. As an example, completely flat optics in the 500mm and above range, the price would be IMO $2 minimum and probably $3K on average, and can go way way up from there. Even then, It will be a challenge to calibrate your high performance gear to actually perform perfect on a full frame.

 

Why all hassle? If you want a quality output, match your optics up to a MFT FOV and give it a try. In doing so, you will see that some of the benefits will include:

 

  • You will be able to use less costly optics, while obtaining results that will match, or in most cases beat, premium full frame performing optics. You still need good optics but the idea here is, as an example : If you need a 400mm FOV for imaging, research a 200mm lens that, although may show imperfections on a full frame, provides a quality field for a MFT camera. Not only will you have the resolution to support it, you will NOT be able to tell the difference in the end unless you’re a professional pixel peeping expert. Might you see a small difference when evaluating a single sub? Maybe, maybe not. Stack at least 20 frames and I would say that the ability to distinguish would be extremely difficult. This one example alone will save you thousands of dollars in your AP investment. The pundits will say this is not true and mathematically they will probably provide an equation that will support the claim. From a visual standpoint, and as an actual user (and have been for years in general), I can tell you that, if there is any difference, it is minimal – so minimal that it’s almost unnoticeable in the end.
  • This will eliminate the need to crop any of your image, aside from the small stacked edges. I see many folks image with less than perfect optics and end up within the MFT FOV with their FF bodies anyway. Why not just image with MFT? Cut’s out a lot of work and frustration.
  • You will not have any vignette issues.
  • The camera bodies are light and small
  • MFT are extremely cheap relative to full frame bodies
  • Perspective – a Olympus 16MP MFT file is roughly 13 megabytes in size. A A6000 24MP aps-c file is 26MB on average. If I crop the A6000 file to equal the FOV of the Olympus, I would be left with a 10MP file – again, no where even close to the 16MP resolution of the Olympus 16mp MFT native file.

To back up what I say, I’ve got three – two hour stacks of IC342. One stack is made with the Olympus M10 with a cheap 920mm F4 Newtonian (with Paracorr) and one two-hour stack made with a A7S with the Edge HD8. Lastly I’ve got a two hour stack made with the A6000/920mm F4 newt. The highest resolution end result, and the highest quality file with less AP issues, is the Oly M10 stack. If anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll send you the link for your review.

 

FOV with Oly/Newt outlined above : 1840mm

FOV with A7S/EdgeD8 outlined above: 2030mm

FOV with A6000/Newt outlined above : 1380mm

 

Anyway, my wife is on vacation and I’ve got more time on my hands than what Is good for me. Thought I would share my thoughts on this issue.



#2 bobzeq25

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 01:55 PM

I agree that, in some circumstances, for some imagers, micro 4/3 is the best choice.  Or maybe the micro 4/3 size ASI1600 or similar.  Just as APS-C, or full frame, is the best choice for some imagers, in some circumstances.

 

I use an APS-C DSLR and a small (694) chip CCD, at various times.  That works for me.



#3 t_image

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 04:38 PM

A case for Micro Four Thirds in Astrophotography (Reference: Current 16mp and 20mp MFT sensors)
Resolution is something that most photographers like, and for AP, it really helps in the end if you have room to play while maintaining a certain level of quality in your work flow. AP, as I’ve learned, is an expensive pursuit.
When one tries to match flawless full frame optics with full frame sensors, the sticker shock is a gut check.
This is an overly generalized statement that presumes a more narrow use, which defeats the point of a generalized statement.
Additionally using qualifiers like "
flawless" is not really helpful and is really just rhetoric since you do not offer the same "flawless" situation in reference to MFT.
It is more appropriate to say: "When one tries to match exceptional performance full frame optics with full frame sensors with larger pixels with getting the highest spatial resolution as the most important requirement, the sticker shock is a gut check. "

The idea of full frame talk has always seemed, well, misunderstood to me.
Now this is valuable. The myth that "full frame is always better in every application" should be exposed if anyone is being led astray by such..
For AP, regardless of full frame, APS-C, or MFT, I believe it’s better to think in terms of Field of View.
This is especially significant as another way of saying this is the determination of your target and desired framing of the shot should precede the tools you choose to use........
Here's a helpful general statement: "use the right tool for the right job."

If you do this, and tune out the format loyalist pundits, you will not only save a mortgage worth of money, you may in fact find an unmatched quality point.
I love my A7S, mostly due to it’s live view capabilities, but if I were to start all over (or advise someone) with AP investments, I would procure my optics based off Micro Four Thirds FOV. I’ve been evaluating Micro Four Thirds since they were released into the market. For general photography, there is an element of out of focus areas and depth of field aspects that MFT differs from FF. These points are valid for general use.
For AP, these points are void and you are left with a single difference, FOV.
However, if one considers your ongoing assumption that the pixel size is different between FF and MFT sensors, then there is another difference that does apply to AP:

larger pixels have more sensitivity to light, SNR, etc.
For the newer models, there are always going to be slight response/performance differences between every camera model. The slight variations might be a deal breaker for some, but for all of my MFT/APS-C/FF cameras, in the end, these differences are relatively unnoticeable and therefore I exclude these small differences as it relates to the end finished product.
I presume you are not referring to sensor pixel size differences among camera models as such is an essential element to your agument and can't be so easily dismissed.
Some will say that MFT is just a crop. This is true, and only true, if the sensors are of the exact same characteristics.
Again "exact" is a correct term but is also more rhetoric since such degree of precision cannot be presumed to be the requirement of everyone in AP.
Case in point : my 16mp MFT Olympus’s are completely different than my 12mp FF A7S. The quality of a MFT FOV cropped A7S file is nowhere even close to the quality of a native MFT Olympus 16mp capture. Not only is the quality different, the obvious difference in resolution is apparent.
This of course is the nature of comparing different pixel sizes while utilizing corresponding optics.
Even a MFT crop of, for instance, a A6000 24MP sensor is not the same as an Olympus 16mp MFT native capture.
It’s more likely that the statement “A MFT is simply a FF crop” is NOT true than to find that it is true.
This is helpful if one is being led astray by some myth that the size of the sensor is all that matters apart from pixel size.
However, the statement "MFT is a FF crop" is helpful in describing the size of the area captured for that size of sensor, GIVEN PIXEL SIZE IS EQUAL.

The focus on such statement is describing the sensor size. To presume the negative violates the "principle of fidelity" in correctly interpreting the intention of the statement.
Think of it this way, what would it take for the statement “A MFT is simply a crop of a FF” to be true as it relates to my Olympus 16mp sensor? Hold on tight – it would require a 88.5 mp FF sensor. How many of those do you see available on the market? This should put the MFT 16mp sensors into a new perspective for you.
This is valuable if one misunderstands that sensor size apart from pixel size is all that matters.
Back to optics.
In most circumstances, in order to get a completely flat full frame, it requires a lot of $.
Now the application has been narrowed to "in most circumstances," however one might dispute what "most circumstances" are in AP. It might be more helpful to define this more specifically and let the reader decide whether or not it applies to their circumstances.
As an example, completely flat optics in the 500mm and above range, the price would be IMO $2 minimum and probably $3K on average, and can go way way up from there. Even then, It will be a challenge to calibrate your high performance gear to actually perform perfect on a full frame.
Again the term "completely flat" isn't necessary for your point.
The challenge of calibration comment is interesting, because the same can be said while dealing with sensors with small pixel size, since their is quite an increase in need for precise tracking, which can be expensive and be a challenge as well.

Why all hassle? If you want a quality output, match your optics up to a MFT FOV and give it a try.
Unfortunately this statement commits the same error you accuse the MFT is a crop of FF of committing: disregarding the importance of sensor pixel size.
The suggestion that getting one of the popular MFT sensors matched with one's optics MIGHT best meet the need one's specific requirements and goals in AP is valid.
In doing so, you will see that some of the benefits will include:
    You will be able to use less costly optics, while obtaining results that will match, or in most cases beat, premium full frame performing optics.
Interestingly there is no promise in " flawless " or "completely flat" or "exact" resolution match here.

Hence my point concerning the terms being rhetoric and not qualitatively helpful terms for comparing options.
You still need good optics but the idea here is, as an example : If you need a 400mm FOV for imaging, research a 200mm lens that, although may show imperfections on a full frame, provides a quality field for a MFT camera. Not only will you have the resolution to support it, you will NOT be able to tell the difference in the end unless you’re a professional pixel peeping expert. Might you see a small difference when evaluating a single sub? Maybe, maybe not. Stack at least 20 frames and I would say that the ability to distinguish would be extremely difficult.
This one example alone will save you thousands of dollars in your AP investment.
Unfortunately a point not mentioned is the cost involved with tracking and guiding to match the precision one desires with the given system.....
However, again to say that using a currently popular MFT with such application MIGHT meet one's specific requirements and save $ compared with other equipment can be valid.

The pundits will say this is not true and mathematically they will probably provide an equation that will support the claim. From a visual standpoint, and as an actual user (and have been for years in general), I can tell you that, if there is any difference, it is minimal – so minimal that it’s almost unnoticeable in the end.
This is a great point that the end perceptible result for the decision maker [can you see a difference] is more important than some theoretical maths in trying to ascertain what equipment is needed. Agreed.
    This will eliminate the need to crop any of your image, aside from the small stacked edges. I see many folks image with less than perfect optics and end up within the MFT FOV with their FF bodies anyway. Why not just image with MFT? Cut’s out a lot of work and frustration.
    You will not have any vignette issues.
"Not have any" is more rhetoric. Yes it stands to reason given the same optics, a sensor that "crops the region" will eliminate more vignetting problems experienced with a sensor of larger surface area.
    The camera bodies are light and small
    MFT are extremely cheap relative to full frame bodies
    Perspective – a Olympus 16MP MFT file is roughly 13 megabytes in size. A A6000 24MP aps-c file is 26MB on average. If I crop the A6000 file to equal the FOV of the Olympus, I would be left with a 10MP file – again, no where even close to the 16MP resolution of the Olympus 16mp MFT native file.
This is strange math.  Comparing a 3.75 sized micron pixels in a 224.9mmsquared surface for 16.1 effective megapixels of your Oly M10 versus a 3.92 sized micron pixels in a 366.6 squared surface for 24.3 effective megapixels of the A6000: One would take the pixels of the A6000 and put them in the size of the Oly sensor for:
3.92 microns =15.37 micronsq=.01537mmsq
224.9mm sq divided by .01537 =14.6MP NOT the 10MP of your math.

Thought one was trying to avoid mathematical formulas and just want to see the results.
Why not just say "A 3.75 micro pixel size MFT sensor is going to outperform a 3.92 micron pixel size APC-C sensor cropped."
The issue is about Sensor pixel size....

To back up what I say, I’ve got three – two hour stacks of IC342. One stack is made with the Olympus M10 with a cheap 920mm F4 Newtonian (with Paracorr) and one two-hour stack made with a A7S with the Edge HD8. Lastly I’ve got a two hour stack made with the A6000/920mm F4 newt. The highest resolution end result, and the highest quality file with less AP issues, is the Oly M10 stack. If anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll send you the link for your review.

 

FOV with Oly/Newt outlined above : 1840mm at 3.75 microns =.42 arc"

FOV with A7S/EdgeD8 outlined above: 2030mm at 8.4 microns= .85 arc"

FOV with A6000/Newt outlined above : 1380mm at 3.92 microns=.59 arc"

 


Lessons learned: a MFT like some of the recently popular camera available maybe the better bet for people in AP.

 

Note: To sum up: get the right tool for the right job. AP is all about trade-offs.

FOV and desired target choice is key, but often people buy the optics and mount they can afford before considering what FOV and targets they want....

Choosing the imaging sensor based on your requirements is better than believing any universal statements hype about sensor size....

Decide the type of optics you can afford and what FL they give.

Decide the mount and tracking/guiding system you can afford and get reliable precision out of....

Decide what imaging sensor you can afford and make sure there is a good match between sensor pixel size and the requirements for the type of resolution you want to see in the image,

given the constraints that on the average

smaller pixels

demand more tracking precision

and will require more integration time

than larger pixels

that will demand less tracking precision

and will given less resolution with the same optics.....

 

Additionally, one needs to consider the final delivery of their images.

Are you printing them out?

Are you only looking at them on your phone?

Are you only looking at them on your computer or laptop display at 1920x1080?

Do you have color calibrated 4K display?


Edited by t_image, 14 March 2017 - 04:44 PM.


#4 ToxMan

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 04:59 PM

Interesting read. I've been playing around with an Olympus MFT.

I agree, AP has a lot of trade offs. Your best point, t__image, is considering the final results, intended use, audience, and what can deliver the intended results.

#5 jammeymc

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 06:58 PM

 

 

I will address just a few things and point out a few others. T-Image; thanks for humoring me. There is truth in your numbers I'm sure. Your response shows an ultra sensitivity to general statements. What led you to believe that i wanted a "T-image correction outline" of the words I used? Interesting. There is truth in my numbers, and it's not crazy math. I simply did not equate it the same way you did.  Instead, I kept it basic eliminating some variables that you've decided to include. No big deal - someone else could take it even further, so nothing special here. I'm not going to explain myself for each seemingly petty point you tried to turn into a falsehood and/or controversy. I have confidence that the general public can read between the lines and understand what I was trying to, and did, say. I suspect that you felt the need to exhibit how well you can be at appearing to correct things, by adding variables to fit a point, along with pointing out your excellent knowledge. You did a good job here and I think I even predicted your approach in my initial post. Note that I began by saying that it’s “My” belief that one should think in terms of FOV. Thinking in this way (my opinion only) will eliminate the deep rabbit hole that folks use to deviate from what’s important, to the details of what’s not - IF, what is important to you, is the end result.  There could be a significant amount of savings if it’s considered.
In the end, I stand by the points I outlined as advantages for MFT. I did not intend to take away, in anyway, from the other formats as I would agree that all have value for various applications. In summary, MFT, in most case, is less expensive…..from the imaging device, to the optics one can select. Not only that, the quality of the end results can be indistinguishable. 



#6 bobzeq25

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 07:39 PM

 

 

 

 I kept it basic eliminating some variables that you've decided to include. No big deal - 

 

Actually on this website it is.  This is a complex field.  There is a constant stream of analyses of complex issues where the answer depends on what you put in and what you leave out.  So the conclusions reached are quite subjective.

 

You've made some sweeping claims that MFT is as good as other alternatives.  But that's according to your particular issues.  For someone else, those may or may not be the issues of concern.  Which means your conclusions may or may not be valid.  The fact is that MFT has not made many inroads into the community.  I don't think it's because people just don't understand the virtues you've outlined.  Simply put, their concerns and issues are different.


Edited by bobzeq25, 14 March 2017 - 07:40 PM.


#7 jammeymc

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 08:23 PM

 

 

 

 

 I kept it basic eliminating some variables that you've decided to include. No big deal - 

 

Actually on this website it is.  This is a complex field.  There is a constant stream of analyses of complex issues where the answer depends on what you put in and what you leave out.  So the conclusions reached are quite subjective.

 

You've made some sweeping claims that MFT is as good as other alternatives.  But that's according to your particular issues.  For someone else, those may or may not be the issues of concern.  Which means your conclusions may or may not be valid.  The fact is that MFT has not made many inroads into the community.  I don't think it's because people just don't understand the virtues you've outlined.  Simply put, their concerns and issues are different.

 

Correct and the conclusions reached are certainly subjective to me. "Actually on this website it is". For some maybe but i would say this is an equally sweeping statement. Complex to some, a simple learning curve to others. If i was new into photography and interested in AP, i would hesitate going to MFT due to the knee jerk reaction from the status quo that i would guess, comes from many who have never actually compared and or experienced it for themselves. I'm confident in my experience. I own and have imaged with all three formats, with many different applications, and am not biased towards any one. I don't get bogged down in the distance analysis and i observe the final end result. To each their own. If one hasn't imaged with MFT, i encourage them to do so to experience the end result for themselves. If one is devastated or disappointed as a result of that experience, then by all means expand to where ever ones needs lends itself. This post was a case for MFT. I could do one for FF, APS-C, or any other format. They are all valuable for various intended purposes. However, there are very positive unique virtues and a case to be made for MFT. Maybe not for everybody, but certainly worth considering and if an end result presentation can prove my general points wrong, I'm always eager to concede.


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#8 Patrick

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 11:01 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 I kept it basic eliminating some variables that you've decided to include. No big deal - 

 

Actually on this website it is.  This is a complex field.  There is a constant stream of analyses of complex issues where the answer depends on what you put in and what you leave out.  So the conclusions reached are quite subjective.

 

You've made some sweeping claims that MFT is as good as other alternatives.  But that's according to your particular issues.  For someone else, those may or may not be the issues of concern.  Which means your conclusions may or may not be valid.  The fact is that MFT has not made many inroads into the community.  I don't think it's because people just don't understand the virtues you've outlined.  Simply put, their concerns and issues are different.

 

Correct and the conclusions reached are certainly subjective to me. "Actually on this website it is". For some maybe but i would say this is an equally sweeping statement. Complex to some, a simple learning curve to others. If i was new into photography and interested in AP, i would hesitate going to MFT due to the knee jerk reaction from the status quo that i would guess, comes from many who have never actually compared and or experienced it for themselves. I'm confident in my experience. I own and have imaged with all three formats, with many different applications, and am not biased towards any one. I don't get bogged down in the distance analysis and i observe the final end result. To each their own. If one hasn't imaged with MFT, i encourage them to do so to experience the end result for themselves. If one is devastated or disappointed as a result of that experience, then by all means expand to where ever ones needs lends itself. This post was a case for MFT. I could do one for FF, APS-C, or any other format. They are all valuable for various intended purposes. However, there are very positive unique virtues and a case to be made for MFT. Maybe not for everybody, but certainly worth considering and if an end result presentation can prove my general points wrong, I'm always eager to concede.

 

Thanks for the discussion, Jammey.  At least you got me thinking about an MFT...

 

Patrick



#9 Cajundaddy

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 12:21 AM

"Choose the right tool for your job at hand" as mentioned is nearly always the best plan.  AP is indeed a series of compromises so we must choose the features and benefits that suit our intended use the best.  In a former life I did film AP for several years but never went into the deep end of the pool with cryo-pushed film or 2 hr manually guided sessions. This was reflected in my results which were pleasing to me but a few steps down in image quality compared to the supremely dedicated AP lads.  It is a fun hobby and there are many different ways to approach it.

 

I am a fan of M43 format cameras for general photography and will likely explore piggyback imaging under dark skies as well as some planetary images as the giants come around again.  These are things I can reasonably do with the gear I own, not the gear I wish I owned.  The M43 sensor is still low noise at 1600 ISO and much larger than many of the recent-generation AP cameras.  A useful tool if it suits your needs.

 

If you need a cooled camera for long exposure AP, get a good one.  If you prefer to work in full frame DSLR, get a DSLR.  If you appreciate the light weight and good image results with a M43, maybe that is a good tool for you. Every camera is a compromise of some sort.



#10 t_image

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 07:09 AM

Thanks for your patience with me Jammey,

glad you didn't take anything personal.

Since this is a forum and not a bulletin-board or a blog,

I regard posted equipment "manifestos" as open to critique.

No need to assume my intentions:

I care not how I'm perceived,

just a little concerned that in the new world of social media where everyone thinks

their conclusion on a matter is equally valid regardless of the steps taken to reason such view,

that spurious statements unchecked can lead those unsuspecting astray.

Exchanges on forums can help improve the signal-to-noise-ratio beneficial for the reader researching and trying to learn.

Kindof like your intent to dissuade those from some anti-4/3 mindset.

The field of AP is quite varied,

but one can't deny there are many that are concerned with small details and high precision.

I applaud your efforts to be a "4/3 Evangelist", as you have posted the same "a case for" on the dpreview website.

I figure the difference between

an evangelist

and a saleperson

is the evangelist is concerned with getting matters correct since one is motivated by a sincere enthusiasm for something and not agenda.

You need not turn all your points into your own subjective interpretations to avoid criticism,

there are objective benefits to sensors that have smaller pixels that give advantage to the use of 4/3 sensors...

Since you are fortunate to have the means to objectively compare various sensors within the realm of your requirements,

a refinement of methodology of testing could enhance the compelling nature of your appeal.

Since a major requirement of yours is how the results look,

one would expect you would have offered a comparison of images upfront and less points of verbal argument.....

Given I respect those who desire not to share their good work on the internet so your offer to share with those that inquire is a great substitute.....

But again attention to detail on an equal comparison of the sensors would be useful compared with the different spatial resolution optical setups you list at bottom.

 

AP can be expensive and we all would hope no one experiences buyer's remorse after much investment!

The discussion is quite valuable to the beginner for AP in that equipment decisions on mount and optics are only part of the equation:

selection of a camera can also be quite important!.....

 

An additional final note for newbies out there: selecting the most appropriate equipment is great,

but time invested in perfecting the art and science of utilizing the equipment you have to its fullest can outshine most equipment shortcoming.

The concept of "specifications envy" is an underlying issue addressed here (i.e. the rant against the "sensor size spec" [does size matter?-4/3rd's are good too!]).

You'll soon find your optics, mount and camera could always be better from reading threads on CN......

My hope is we all have many clear-sky nights to spend time using the equipment we do have

to the best of our ability,

and less time stressing over its limitations. tongue2.gif

(however equipment discussions "buyer beware" are always fun for a cloudy nightlol.gif ).



#11 szg

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 10:55 AM

Problem for M4/3 will be the same as me when I use Sony cameras for AP.

 

When you move further to the next step on AP (and I believe it quite soon), you will need software assist for more productivity. Other than CCDs, software only support 2 major DSLR maker and leave other brands behind. T___T


Edited by szg, 20 March 2017 - 10:59 AM.


#12 Cajundaddy

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 09:27 AM

Problem for M4/3 will be the same as me when I use Sony cameras for AP.

 

When you move further to the next step on AP (and I believe it quite soon), you will need software assist for more productivity. Other than CCDs, software only support 2 major DSLR maker and leave other brands behind. T___T

I have wondered about this but don't know the answer.  What "software assist" is necessary that cannot already be done remotely with an advanced M43 camera?  Most imaging functions and downloads can already be done remotely with wifi and a phone or tablet using the native Olympus software.  I suppose there are some cool things I am missing, I just don't know what they are.  




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