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Refractor and CMOS camera for photographing the 2024 eclipse?

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#1 CTYankee

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Posted 25 November 2023 - 02:43 PM

I have a Skywatcher Esprit 100 ED refractor and a ZWO asi 294 color camera which I plan to use to photograph the eclipse. I also have a ZWO asi 224 camera and a ZWO asi 174 mini-mono guide camera. Am I correct that the 294 is the best choice for this event? Or should I use the 224 or 174?  And should I take videos and stack them, or take single frames?  If single frames, what exposure time do you recommend (will 1-2 secs be ok)? Also, I will be buying a solar filter for my scope soon and could use some suggestions for that. Last, is there any specific way I can capture the series of eclipse stages in a sequence? I have seen this before a lot with eclipse photos but have no idea how to do it.

 

I have never photographed a solar eclipse before and could use some suggestions.  I will be traveling to VT to experience totality and I want to make sure I capture it well in a photo/series of photos. Thanks in advance.



#2 RonH47

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Posted 05 December 2023 - 10:20 PM

First, you should decide what field of view you will get with your telescope and your choice of astronomy camera. I suggest you look at https://www.12dstrin....uk/fovcalc.php to see what your various combinations will give you. If you want close ups of the solar disk, sunspots, and prominences, you will want a narrow field of view, but if you want to show the solar corona you will need a wider view. There are other field of view calculators out there, Stellarium, https://astronomy.tools/calculators/field_of_view/, etc. Most probably you will want a compromise.

 

As for the choice between videos and still frames, I am wrestling with that choice myself. I did videos during the 2017 eclipse, and it was easy to get still frames from the video, and the DSLR camera I was using had automatic exposure, so I was very satisfied with it. But I am looking at taking stills this time using photo automation software. I want to get more of the corona than I did last time, which will require different exposure settings, lots of them.

 

Before and after totality, I recommend the Baader solar film (sold by https://www.kendrick...om/solarfilters), but others like the glass solar filters. Lots of discussion about that on this forum. You can use the photo automation software to do the sequences you mention. Several are mentioned here too.

 

Best of luck, I am in the intensive learning phase myself, even though I've already done it once. I want to do more this time, hopefully.


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#3 CTYankee

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 07:42 AM

Thanks Ron. I also looked at the other thread you posted on eclipse software, and added some questions there as well.

 

I looked at the fov calculator and it looks like my Esprit 100 refractor and ZWO asi 294 color camera will perfectly fit the eclipse in the center of the screen. From what I can tell I might be able to get both the sunspots and the corona with this view. I also ordered Baader filters for both my scope and guidescope (ED50 with asi 174mm camera). I'm using the guide scope/camera to help find the sun when I first set up (with its very wide field of view), then switching over to the main camera. My filters are on order and as soon as they come in I will take some practice shots of the sun. 

 

It seems to me like still shots might be best; that way one doesn't have to fiddle around with taking videos throughout the process. Maybe 1 sec frames for 4 min?? Not sure about that. If you have suggestions for exposure time let me know. I have also heard that one should remove the filter during totality, but I really don't want to do that for fear I would make a mistake and ruin the whole thing at that critical moment! 

 

I was hoping to have a completely hands-off set-up so that I can enjoy the experience with family, and just let my scope do its thing. I am planning to simply let Sharpcap run for 4 min with 1-sec exposures to capture it in its entirety from start to finish. But if you have any other suggestions please let me know!

 

Then afterwards I want to find the appropriate automation software to string together the frames to show a progression.  In the other post you referenced there was a good progression shot shown - this is what I am looking for, but it was with a Mac app. I am looking for something simple in Windows - I'm not much of a techie and looking for something easy to use! 

 

Again, thanks, and best of luck. If you have any additional ideas please let me know.



#4 RonH47

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 10:38 AM

Glad to see you have gotten off on the right foot, looks good to me. But a quick warning: you must remove the solar filter during totality, or your camera will see nothing. Don't worry, you won't harm anything if you remove it a second or two before totality. Here is an excellent video on photographing the eclipse from Alan Dyer, one of the best astrophotographers on the planet. At the timeline 23:30 of his video, he shows how if you are videoing on auto exposure, the DSLR camera will quickly adjust the shutter speed (or ISO): https://www.youtube....h?v=D-K2YCLtaEU. Using an astrophotography camera you will need to program it, unless your ZWO models have an auto setting, mine does not.

 

To know exactly when totality starts and ends, you really need to get an app for your mobile phone, I recommend Solar Eclipse Timer, whose developer is active on this forum. https://www.solareclipsetimer.com/ . The app will give you verbal countdowns exactly.

 

Dyer also has tips for taking still shots. You will need to use an automation program to change the exposures to get the full dynamic range of the disk and its corona, today's digital cameras cannot capture all of them without changing the exposure settings quite a bit. SharpCap is what I plan on using, but FireCapture is also a great choice. You will need to do some early-on experimenting with your scope and camera settings to know what range to program in. Lots of people suggest using the crescent moon to see what works best on the corona and disk, since you can't practice on a solar eclipse smile.gif .

 

I also want to spend as much of the time as possible visual observing with my family, but there are a couple of quick moves you will need to do removing the solar filter, at the beginning of totality and the end. I want to especially capture the diamond ring effect, which requires exact timing.



#5 RonH47

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 11:05 AM

Correction to my above post: As I was reviewing what SharpCap and ZWO cameras can do, I found there may be an Auto exposure function. I will be looking into that.



#6 CTYankee

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 03:47 PM

Thanks!  

 

Today I received my solar filters and did some experimenting. I found out that to see the sun's disc with my ZWO 294 camera and Esprit 100 scope, using the filter, I used a gain of only 36 and an exposure of 0.783ms. That is a far cry from the 1s exposure I was planning. I am glad I am experimenting!

 

Thanks for the link to Alan Dyer's video, and info on the need for an autoexposure function. If you find out if there is any specific info on the autoexposure function which applies to a ZWO camera using Sharpcap, can you please pass that info along?

 

I really appreciate all your assistance!



#7 Cajundaddy

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 06:34 PM

Lots of experimentation and practice to get a good result.  Shoot the sun with different shutter speeds and evaluate.  Shoot the lunar crescent to get a reasonable baseline for exposures during totality.  A precise timer is also very useful to know exactly when to remove/replace your filter to protect your instrument.  There is a lot to this setup but if you prepare well, you can get a fine result.  

For the recent annular eclipse I did a checklist including:  Day before, night before, morning of, and begin shooting, to make sure I didn't forget a critical step.  I will do the same for the April 8 eclipse and hopefully, things will go according to plan.



#8 foxwoodastronomy

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Posted 08 December 2023 - 09:21 PM

I appreciate that RonH47 mentioned my app Solar Eclipse Timer as an aide to eclipse photography.  Having audible countdowns to the contact times, especially C2 and C3 is crucial for eclipse photography if you are not scripting with a computer.  I am excited to share with you the fact that I collaborated with Fred Espenak on a new feature in the app for 2024.  There is a new mode called Photographer's Mode.  When this mode is enabled all of the announcements and even additional announcements are all about eclipse timing.  There are spoken statements that remind you to remove solar filters, max eclipse, and replace solar filters.  Other than that, it's all about timing.  When Fred reached out to me to work on this, he told me he wants to be able to keep up with the timing in between contact times even though he scripts with computers now.  There are other chores that he wants to be reminded to do.  So, we developed a PDF document that follows the timing announcements in the app so you can write down custom notes and chores that you want to do regarding photography.  It's a tremendous tool.

https://www.solarecl...e Worksheet.pdf



#9 R Botero

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Posted 09 December 2023 - 06:32 AM

John

 

Ron and others have given you some very good advice already. The 294MC will be an excellent choice. See some of my posts in the other threads in this forum. I plan to use an ASI2600MC, a Stowaway refractor and SharpCap’s Sequencer tool. I’ve been practicing on the Moon and Sun for a few months now with this rig. Planning to press Go in SharpCap for it to image around 4000 frames in bracketed exposures and resolutions automatically. I will not be missing the visual experience if my imaging fails though. 
 

Roberto


Edited by R Botero, 09 December 2023 - 06:34 AM.

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#10 timmywampus

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Posted 19 December 2023 - 06:45 PM

I will run 2

  • WO70ED + thousand oaks filter & focal reducer w/ASI290MM for corona during totality
  • Lunt80Ha w/ASI533MM for full eclipse

 

wife will be using Celestron 6SE + thousand oaks filter w/dSLR 

 

looking forward to all the pics from this forum and hoping to avoid a 48/24-hour destination change based on weather if cloudy in TX.



#11 glancey

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Posted 27 January 2024 - 02:34 PM

Correction to my above post: As I was reviewing what SharpCap and ZWO cameras can do, I found there may be an Auto exposure function. I will be looking into that.

There's an auto exposure function in ASIStudio on the Planetary Imaging tab. It's supposed to set both exposure and gain for your ZWO camera.  You could use it to take a few frames every so often during the eclipse, so it's not completely automated. 



#12 Northernguy

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Posted 27 January 2024 - 05:48 PM

Can you set up Sharpcap to automatically do exposure bracketing? I didn't know that was a feature. 

 

I'm also trying to decide on the best camera and OTA to use. I do have an ASI294MCPro, which probably will give me the widest field of view. I suppose I wouldn't need to cool it down, saving having to plug in the power. 

 

For refractors, I think the best would be either my ST120 achromat with 600mm focal length or else I also have a universal Lunt 80mm which can be set up for white light. I will make a solar filter using Thousand Oaks filter material to fit one or the other of these. I wasn't really planning to use the h-alpha etalons, though, as I would think they would not show the corona particularly well. Is that correct?



#13 R Botero

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Posted 28 January 2024 - 03:21 AM

Can you set up Sharpcap to automatically do exposure bracketing? I didn't know that was a feature. 

 

I'm also trying to decide on the best camera and OTA to use. I do have an ASI294MCPro, which probably will give me the widest field of view. I suppose I wouldn't need to cool it down, saving having to plug in the power. 

 

For refractors, I think the best would be either my ST120 achromat with 600mm focal length or else I also have a universal Lunt 80mm which can be set up for white light. I will make a solar filter using Thousand Oaks filter material to fit one or the other of these. I wasn't really planning to use the h-alpha etalons, though, as I would think they would not show the corona particularly well. Is that correct?

Use SharpCap’s Sequencer feature to control the series of exposures automatically. 
 

Roberto





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