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What can I do with what I have?

astrophotography beginner DIY dslr equipment
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#1 zixfy

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 08:27 PM

*originally posted this in the wrong forum... oops*

 

I recently have gotten into astrophotography, taking pictures in my semi light polluted backyard. I mostly have just been taking pictures of constellations and the moon. I did however take a photo of the milky way and processed it with multiple lights, flats, darks, and bias frames in DSS along with Photoshop as I enjoy graphic design on the side. What I am looking for is any tips on getting deeper in astrophotography, both literally and knowledge wise. What type of shots can I get with my current setup along with what type of shots I could get in the future with some upgrades. Money is kinda tight as I am 18 and gearing up for college in the fall, so if you have any upgrade recommendations, it would be awesome if they were budget friendly. Thank you. :)

 

My Current Setup:

 

Hardware:

Canon T3i

Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Canon EFS 55-250mm f/4-5.6

UHC Light Pollution Filter

Standard Stationary Tripod

Remote Shutter Release

 

Software:

DeepSkyStacker

Photoshop CC

Lightroom



#2 fetoma

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 08:56 PM

Tripod shots with your current gear. You'll need a tracking mount to go any further.



#3 petert913

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 09:22 PM

You can get some great 30 second shots of the Milky Way with your wide field lenses.  But any more and

you will need a tracking mount.



#4 PirateMike

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 10:42 PM

If you plan on using just your camera and camera lenses then a tracking mount designed for such a setup would be required if you want to move forward with imaging.

 

Skywatcher has two models available as do other manufacturers. I don't image with camera lenses, so hopefully others can point you to the other available options.

 

https://www.skywatch..._list=list-view

 

An intervalometer would also be helpful and they are rather inexpensive, you should be able to find one for your camera for around $30 or less.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

.


Edited by PirateMike, 17 June 2019 - 10:46 PM.


#5 bobzeq25

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 10:43 PM

*originally posted this in the wrong forum... oops*

 

I recently have gotten into astrophotography, taking pictures in my semi light polluted backyard. I mostly have just been taking pictures of constellations and the moon. I did however take a photo of the milky way and processed it with multiple lights, flats, darks, and bias frames in DSS along with Photoshop as I enjoy graphic design on the side. What I am looking for is any tips on getting deeper in astrophotography, both literally and knowledge wise. What type of shots can I get with my current setup along with what type of shots I could get in the future with some upgrades. Money is kinda tight as I am 18 and gearing up for college in the fall, so if you have any upgrade recommendations, it would be awesome if they were budget friendly. Thank you. smile.gif

 

My Current Setup:

 

Hardware:

Canon T3i

Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Canon EFS 55-250mm f/4-5.6

UHC Light Pollution Filter

Standard Stationary Tripod

Remote Shutter Release

 

Software:

DeepSkyStacker

Photoshop CC

Lightroom

You're doing great, keep it up.  In particular keep up shooting stacks of lights, bias, flats, darks.

 

This would make that easier.  $32.

 

https://www.amazon.c...l/dp/B01GC1USHU

 

I strongly suggest this book, it's very well regarded here.  $43.

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470906

 

As people have said above, the real upgrade would be a camera tracker.  $300-400 store bought, but if you're just somewhat handy there are plenty of DIY designs around.  Here's one.  Less than $50.

 

https://garyseronik....trophotography/

 

But, know that total imaging time is more important than longer subexposures.  I've shot 100X7" off a tripod with a 50mm lens.

 

Free improvement.  Shoot more subexposures.  <smile>

 

Last, more important if you have light polluted skies, is this addon to Photoshop.  $50.  For me, gradient reduction alone works better than a filter alone.  Some people combine them.  But an advantage of gradient reduction over a filter is that it does not increase subexposure time.  That's important if you're shooting off a tripod.

 

http://www.rc-astro....nator/index.php


Edited by bobzeq25, 17 June 2019 - 10:52 PM.

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#6 james7ca

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 11:53 PM

In addition to the motorized barn-door tracker linked by bobzeq25 you can easily make a manually driven version for even less money and with simple hand tools (even with a handsaw and hand drill). I built one about eight years ago and used it for nearly a year when I first started in astrophotography. The tracker itself is very easy to build, but the manually driven version does require some patience and care when being used.

 

Unfortunately, it looks like over the last eight years the designs for the barn-door tracker have gotten more and more complex (adding computer control, motors, multiple arms, etc.) while I found that my single-arm tracker (basically two boards, a hinge, and a long, straight, 1/4" bolt) worked quite well for exposures of up to two minutes with lenses at or below 100mm. That said, there seem to be a lot of links on the internet that show how to build a barn-door mount (also called the Haig or Scotch mount) and you can probably find a design that anyone could build.

 

Below is an image I took using my barn-door tracker with a 24mm lens at a dark site in April 2012. This is 10 x 2m at f/4 with a Nikon D5100.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Milky Way with Barn-Door Mount.jpg

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#7 TieDyeAstronomer

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 12:00 AM

Hi there! As a fellow 18 year old who started doing astrophotography with very similar equipment a year ago, I'll put my 2ยข in:
 

It is not impossible to take astrophotos with the equipment that you have right now! You just need to be aware that without tracking, you won't get results similar to what you see posted here on Cloudy Nights. But you can capture a significant amount! For example, with my old Canon 350D and 18-55mm kit lens, in my urban backyard, on a stationary tripod, I was able to capture an 11th magnitude galaxy-- the trick was that it was NGC 6217, near the north pole (so I could let the exposure go on for a long time without trailing), and it was only a tiny smudge a few pixels above background level. I stacked two hours of exposures to get it, and man, was I proud!

You won't capture much faint nebulosity with what you have, but you can definitely get the brighter objects-- the Orion Nebula won't be around for a while, but you can try the Lagoon Nebula, the Omega Nebula, M13, and other showpiece objects. Star clusters are underrated targets that are easy to get without tracking! Try Collinder 256/Melotte 111 (both are names for the huge star cluster that makes up the bulk of the constellation Coma Berenices), M7 and the False Comet in the tail of Scorpius (the False Comet is a conglomoration of a ton of clusters), the Double Cluster and the Muscle Man Cluster (Stock 2) east of Cassiopeia, Collinder 39 around Alpha Persei, and even smaller targets like the E.T. Cluster.

 

The real secret of short-exposure astrophotography, though, is timelapses. Check out this timelapse that I took using my DSLR without tracking:

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=c5NtPst-WhY

I can post a bunch more examples later, if you're interested (I have to upload them to YouTube first).

 

Timelapses transform a flat-seeming image into a dynamic, gripping one. When shooting super-short exposures on a static tripod, you don't get much improvement from stacking a ton of shots, and you're not going to compete with the types of images you see posted here on CN-- you just don't have the reach. So I recommend you test playing to the strengths of short exposure photography; find an interesting subject, line it up with some foreground, and shoot a timelapse. 

You can also go all artsy and get some unique still shots; there's not really a trick to this besides keeping an open mind and being ready to shoot any time. For example, here's a shot I took of Jupiter a couple of nights ago:

30HN5qm.jpg

It was taken through clouds with some trees in the foreground, but it makes Jupiter look like a little seashell on a beach of darkness. (Samyang 135mm f/2 lens, unedited.)

Or this shot of Cassiopeia, which was a failed attempt to stack a couple hours of data that I took untracked at a dark sky site-- I left my lens at f/1.4 and the stars had too much coma to stack properly, but the result was neat:

 

knB5dpo.jpg

(old Olympus 50mm f/1.4 SLR lens -- these are very cheap on Ebay and good quality when stopped down two stops. The colors in the photo are really, but this is heavily enhanced in post-processing.)

 

All that said: Tracking is awesome. If you can do a lot without tracking, you can do exponentially more with. Tracking opens up the possibility of deep photography focusing on specific objects, not just constellations. I'm going to copy-paste something I wrote on another recent thread about this really great camera tracker I have:

 

A significantly less expensive option is the Omegon MiniTrack LX2, at only $129 + shipping:

https://www.omegon.e...ack-lx2/p,55040

 

I have one, and I really love it! It can reach track times of up to 100 divide by the lens focal length, in minutes. So that means a 50mm lens can get 2 minute exposures and a 200mm lens can get 30 second exposures. In practice, I find that to be a pretty close rule of thumb. And the best part is that it's completely electronics-free! It winds up like a kitchen timer and tracks for one hour. There is a spring counterweight system. The ballhead available as an add-on is high quality in my inexperienced opinion; it does require some strong cranking of the knob to keep it from slipping with a 3 pound assembly on top of it pointed at the zenith; but if your friend already has a ballhead he can use that.

 

I recommend getting the polar finder bracket and a compatible polar scope if he wants to push the exposure length. I haven't used one myself yet, but there is at least one report of exposure times of up to 400/fl in minutes being achieved with a good polar alignment with a polar scope:

 

https://www.omegon.e...ack-lx2/p,61415

 

For reference, I was able to get 10 second subs with a rough polar alignment pointing near the celestial equator with an ASI178MM + Samyang 135mm f/2 -- that's an effective focal length of over 400mm!

An improved version of the MiniTrack has been announced, the LX3, and is coming out in August. It is said to have a higher payload capacity (3kg vs. 2kg), improved mechanics, and an optical polar scope by default. It's also $60 more expensive. I don't know if your friend wants to wait, but it's something to be aware of:

 

https://www.omegon.e...ack-lx3/p,62043

 

Hope this helps!

 

Clear Skies!

 

As I said above-- hope this helps! Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

Clear Skies!


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#8 NCG1978

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 01:31 AM

LOL I know the price is attractive but maybe stay away from the AVX would be the only thing I would offer lol.gif

 

No I have one and it actually tracts really well up to 180 seconds but I think that's only because I have a very light rig on it.  PHD2 doesn't like the backlash - graph looks like my last cardiogram.

 

Also I've learned not to take for granted the wonders right above our heads.

 

Good luck and clear skies



#9 Dann-Oh

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 12:53 PM

The only thing I could recommend is look into purchasing wither the Sky Watcher Star Adventurer or the iOptron Sky Guider Pro.  The links I have attached are for the manufactures so you can see the items then order from your friendly local telescope supplier.

 

I have seen several people uses these "little" mounts with 600mm camera lenses and small little guiders.



#10 the Elf

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 02:09 PM

Lens wise I recommend a used Ashai Pentax Super Multi Coated Takumar, either the 135 or the 200. I got the 200 for Eur 50 at ebay plus a M42 adapter. You can still use this on a tripod if you pick a bright object and take shorter exposures like 20 sec. In the cheapest mount I know of is this: https://www.ioptron....duct-p/3200.htm

I think it works for 200mm if your expectations are not too high. Nico Carver made a video showing the full process with that little mount: https://www.youtube....h?v=Qb1ceFM-DkQ

Mind his prais of the little telescope. In this and two other videos he shows different ways for processing either in PI or using DSS and gimp (both free). This is the lowes budget imaging I can think of if you want to use a mount (tracking both axes and option for auto guiding) as opposed to a tracker head that tracks one axis only for almost the same price).

The key factor is to keep the focal lenght low. The downside is many well known spectacular objects are too small, so you are limited to a few objects but still you can create great photos.


Edited by the Elf, 18 June 2019 - 02:12 PM.


#11 bobzeq25

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 05:12 PM

Lens wise I recommend a used Ashai Pentax Super Multi Coated Takumar, either the 135 or the 200. I got the 200 for Eur 50 at ebay plus a M42 adapter. You can still use this on a tripod if you pick a bright object and take shorter exposures like 20 sec. In the cheapest mount I know of is this: https://www.ioptron....duct-p/3200.htm

I think it works for 200mm if your expectations are not too high. Nico Carver made a video showing the full process with that little mount: https://www.youtube....h?v=Qb1ceFM-DkQ

Mind his prais of the little telescope. In this and two other videos he shows different ways for processing either in PI or using DSS and gimp (both free). This is the lowes budget imaging I can think of if you want to use a mount (tracking both axes and option for auto guiding) as opposed to a tracker head that tracks one axis only for almost the same price).

The key factor is to keep the focal lenght low. The downside is many well known spectacular objects are too small, so you are limited to a few objects but still you can create great photos.

Pretty much agree except that the lowest price mount is a DIY camera tracker.  People have done nice work with those.  Check out the images near the bottom of this page.

 

https://barn-door-tracker.co.uk/

 

Here are a few more.

 

https://barn-door-tr....co.uk/gallery/

 

Obviously these have some issues and a mount, or even a store bought tracker, is better, but DIY trackers work.  I was trying to keep all suggestions under $100.


Edited by bobzeq25, 18 June 2019 - 05:17 PM.


#12 the Elf

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:40 AM

Probably the barn-door trackers are not available with GOTO and a guider port. LOL

If don't want to DIY, here is a review of a simple mechanic tracker: https://www.cloudyni...x2-review-r3178

Price is a bit above $100. https://www.highpoin...ball-head-55040

 

I'm sorry, I did not answer your original question or only implicit. The answer is not much. The most difficult objects at all are point light sources and you will never find them at daytime. The stars are. Daylight lenses in general are troubled with them and zoom lenses are troubled a lot. That is why I suggested a prime lens. If you use the zoom you might know from daylight that they perfom better when stopped down a bit. At night you will find this makes diffraction spikes at every bright star. You can leave them fully open and get reducer rings that you put on the filter thread. They work like the internal aperture but they are circular and thus do not create spikes but have a similar effect to the image quality.

Without tracking there is a rule of thumb, 100 divided by focal lenght is the longest exposure in seconds you can take. Some say 200, some say 80, but basically there is a rule that the time is limited, the longer the f-lenght the shorter. So you can shoot constellations and the milky way, stacking them from a few seconds subs. I'm sure with enough patience you could also shoot very bright star clusters like the pleiades (in winter) using about 100 to 300 subs of 3 seconds but this will soon add thousands of exposures to your camera. Some say 20k clicks is the calculated lifetime of a T3i. I'm well over that and it still works. When you have the 300 subs you need a computer with quite some memory and a lot of patience the stack them all. Any sort of tracking is a huge step forward, even a barn door is much better than images from a static tripod.

The T3i is fine, I do all my photos with this model as well (though some say Nikon has the better sensors while others say it depends on the model....).

 

May I ask what your bugdet is?

If it is $300 I'd get the mechanic Omegon mini track, a ball head and a Takumar and a M42 adapter from e-bay. There are a few other lenses as well.

If it ist $1000 I'd get the little Omegon mount and the scope Nico presents in the video and save for a guide-camera and a guide scope.

Above this budget you have the chance and the need to specialize for a class of objets. If you love galaxies you need something different than for nebulae and again different for planet.

If it is between 1k and 2k I'd try to get a used mount of the EQ6/Atlas class and either a small refractor or a newt with a short focal length. For galaxies an RC might be an option but they are tricky when it comes to collimation.

What I can tell from bitter experience: the popular mount AVX is too expensive for the low performance. If you can get a used AVX for the same price as the iOptron mini mount and you know it is not broken and don't have to drive far to pick it up, I'd prefer the AVX but I'd not buy a new one. There are some lucky users who got a good one or know how to use it but many are frustrated. On the long run there is no decent mount below $1500.

There are some outstanding lenses that work well for astro but the price is as high as for a telescope, so lenses only make sense in the shorter focal length range up to 200mm. Above that a telescope is likely to give you more quality for the price. If you want a lens for daytime use anyway it is a different story.


Edited by the Elf, 19 June 2019 - 08:04 AM.


#13 fewayne

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 06:46 PM

To quote you in another thread, Elf, "A wise man has spoken". Zixfy, you're getting some good advice here, and not just from him.

 

I have come "up the hawsepipe", as the sailors say, starting with a camera lens on a tripod up to (so far) a dedicated astro camera, filterwheel, and nice (tho still "budget" class) goto EQ mount. Had fun and made images I like at every stage.


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