My optical equipment

Discuss what equipment you are using.
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Butterfly Maiden
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My optical equipment

#1

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

My current optical equipment consists of; Leica 8x32 binoculars, Nikon fieldscope, Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 digital camera with fixed 25mm-400mm zoom capability lens.

The majority of my photography has been of landscapes and nature. Although I've been taking photos for a few years, it's all been self-taught, so I'm by no means an accomplished professional. I mainly use the automatic settings of the camera, which suits me well for my nature photography.

Now that I'm getting an interest in astronomy, I would like to turn my camera to the skies. I've read through a number of posts in this section and there is a lot of technical jargon being used, which is very confusing to me.

I would like to start fairly basically (if possible) and get a decent photo of the Moon. So far, I have tried to get a couple of shots with not very good results. Admittedly, the camera was hand-held so it came out fuzzy. I do have a camera tripod, so that is my next option. Once I've got a stable set-up, I would like to know what are the best settings to use on the camera. Fully auto didn't seem to work as it was overexposed, but I did try putting it on Manual using a fast shutter speed and and an aperture of f5.6. The result was better, but I still didn't get much detail.

I may be expecting too much from my current equipment, but I hope that you can give me some settings to try to begin with, which would be very much appreciated.

On the advice of a friend I have on order a Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian telescope, which is due to arrive within a week or so. I'm just intending to stargaze with this telescope to begin with, but I may be looking to get a camera attachment of some sort in the future. But that's for another time further down the line of my learning experience of astronomy, so I won't ask for equipment needed at this stage.

Please keep any suggestions as simple as possible :oops:
Vanessa
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Peter802
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Re: My optical equipment

#2

Post by Peter802 »

Hello Vanessa.
There is a good Astronomy Club in Winchester if you are any where near that area.
You will get much help and advice there.
Clear Skies.
Regards,

Peter
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#3

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

Thanks Peter. Winchester is a bit far away from me, although I know of one in Fordingbridge which is nearer.

However, I don't want to join any clubs at this stage, rather hoping for advice on the Forum first.
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Re: My optical equipment

#4

Post by JayTee »

The easiest way to start is to plunk your camera on top of a tripod and start shooting the moon. Use your lens at only one stop down from full open, then experiment with different exposure times and different ISO values. Use anywhere from 1/1000 to 2 seconds using different zoom levels.

As an example here's a shot of the moon during a lunar eclipse with my Canon 600D (T3i) with the stock 55-250mm zoom lens set at 250mm using a 2 second exposure @ f/5.6 and ISO 1600. This image is the uncropped frame so you can see how much or how little the moon fills the frame.
Lunar Eclipse 1_20_19.jpg
Don't forget to share the best of what you captured.

Cheers,
JT
∞ Scopes: Celestron CPC1100 #2 Scope: 8" f/7.5 Dob AP Scopes: TPO 6" f/9 RC, ES 80mm f/6 APO G&G Scopes: Meade 102mm f/7.8, Bresser 102mm f/4.5 Guide Scopes: 70 & 80mm fracs
∞ Mounts: iOptron CEM60, Celestron AVX, SLT & GT (Alt-Az), Meade DS2000
∞ Cameras: Canon T3i (x2), ZWO ASI294MC Pro & 120MC, Orion SSAG
∞ Binos: 10X50,10.5X70,15X70², 25X100
∞ EPs: ES: 21 100°, 30 82° X-Cels: 9, 12, 18, 25 GSO:15,20
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I never met a scope I didn't want to keep. "My God, it's full of stars." Searching the skies since 1966!
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#5

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

Thank you JT. I've got a starting point to work with.

Don't hold your breath for seeing the best of my efforts though :roll: I'll try my best and hope for good results.
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Re: My optical equipment

#6

Post by JayTee »

Vanessa Ryder wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 8:08 am
I'll try my best and hope for good results.
That's all we ask for. You watch, it'll be fun to note your progress. 1 year from now when you are cranking out high-quality AP images, you can look back and say wow I've come a long way.

Cheers,
JT
∞ Scopes: Celestron CPC1100 #2 Scope: 8" f/7.5 Dob AP Scopes: TPO 6" f/9 RC, ES 80mm f/6 APO G&G Scopes: Meade 102mm f/7.8, Bresser 102mm f/4.5 Guide Scopes: 70 & 80mm fracs
∞ Mounts: iOptron CEM60, Celestron AVX, SLT & GT (Alt-Az), Meade DS2000
∞ Cameras: Canon T3i (x2), ZWO ASI294MC Pro & 120MC, Orion SSAG
∞ Binos: 10X50,10.5X70,15X70², 25X100
∞ EPs: ES: 21 100°, 30 82° X-Cels: 9, 12, 18, 25 GSO:15,20
Home Wx (click)

I never met a scope I didn't want to keep. "My God, it's full of stars." Searching the skies since 1966!
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#7

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

JayTee wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 8:12 am
1 year from now when you are cranking out high-quality AP images, you can look back and say wow I've come a long way.

Cheers,
JT
Well, I'm not reaching for the stars JT (pun intended ;) ) but I'll be happy with some decent shots at the very least. Then who knows... :sigh:
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SkyHiker
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Re: My optical equipment

#8

Post by SkyHiker »

A Dob is great for visual observing but not for astrophotography. It is probably good enough for some moon pictures depending on how you do it. First, most APers use a DSLR without lens that gets attached with a T ring and T adapter to the focuser. The trouble with most Newtonians like a Dob is that the focal plane is too close to the scope to reach focus. There are workarounds but it's not fun to start with. Instead, also because you don't have a DSLR, there are attachments that will let you mount your Lumix.

If you decide to photograph fainter objects you need an equatorial mount to track the stars. For just a camera with telelens there are trackers such as the IOptron sky tracker. The Lumix is not ideal for that because superzooms typically have a small noisy sensor. There are lots of cheap DSLR bodies on EBay though. Add a 200 to 300 mm telelens and you could have some fun with that. The trackers cost a fair amount of money so if you are into AP you may consider getting an equatorial mount strong enough for a small refractor instead.

You can also try shooting the Milky Way at a dark site with just a camera on a tripod. Make it cover patches of sky at 20 to 30 mm focal length for 20 seconds then stitch the patches with Microsoft ICE and process in Gimp, which is free.
... Henk. :D Telescopes: 6" Mak-Newt (Comet Hunter), ES ED127CF, ES ED80, Zhumell Z12, Coulter Odyssey 10, AT6RC, Venture RX-7, Celestron Skymaster 20x80, Mounts and tripod: Losmandy G11S, AVX, LXD55, Tiltall, Cameras: Fuji X-a1, Canon SX40, Xt, XSi, T6, ELPH 100HS, DIY: Dob and camera barndoor trackers, afocal adapter, Dob with foldable base and Az/Alt setting circles, Accessories: SSAG, Plossls, Barlows, Telrad, laser collimators (Seben LK1, Z12, Howie Glatter), Cheshire, 2 Orion RACIs 8x50, Software: DSS, ImageMagick, PHD, Nebulosity, Photo Gallery, Gimp, CHDK
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#9

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

SkyHiker wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 12:15 pm
A Dob is great for visual observing but not for astrophotography. It is probably good enough for some moon pictures depending on how you do it. First, most APers use a DSLR without lens that gets attached with a T ring and T adapter to the focuser. The trouble with most Newtonians like a Dob is that the focal plane is too close to the scope to reach focus. There are workarounds but it's not fun to start with. Instead, also because you don't have a DSLR, there are attachments that will let you mount your Lumix.

If you decide to photograph fainter objects you need an equatorial mount to track the stars. For just a camera with telelens there are trackers such as the IOptron sky tracker. The Lumix is not ideal for that because superzooms typically have a small noisy sensor. There are lots of cheap DSLR bodies on EBay though. Add a 200 to 300 mm telelens and you could have some fun with that. The trackers cost a fair amount of money so if you are into AP you may consider getting an equatorial mount strong enough for a small refractor instead.

You can also try shooting the Milky Way at a dark site with just a camera on a tripod. Make it cover patches of sky at 20 to 30 mm focal length for 20 seconds then stitch the patches with Microsoft ICE and process in Gimp, which is free.
Thank you for all that information SkyHiker. I actually left out a couple of items from my list above, which may now have a bearing on any photos I could take - Canon EOS 700D DSLR with standard 18-55mm lens, and a Nikon D60 DSLR with 18-55mm lens and a Nikon AF-X Nikkor 55-300mm lens. I also have a Nikon adaptor that connects the D60 to the fieldscope (a set-up I used successfully for birdwatching), but when I tried to photograph the Moon last week it was out of focus.

I actually live in a dark site, the New Forest, so viewing is excellent here. Sky photography in general isn't a top priority of mine just yet, but I would like to start by getting decent Moon shots at the very least - hence these questions.

I'm getting a few ideas from members here so far, which I really appreciate, so I guess a lot of it is going to be experimentation with camera settings. I really need to get to know my cameras better, particularly the controls I could have in 'Manual' mode :oops:
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Re: My optical equipment

#10

Post by sdbodin »

Living in a dark sky area is ten steps above the average amateur out there, excellent. However, no part of astrophotography is done with any 'automatic' settings of any camera. I think a good starting point is wide field imaging on a fixed tripod. Unfortunately, your latitude will be a problem for the next few months as the sky will not quite get astronomically dark. Which leaves the moon thru the telescope. The moon is just a 'daylight' target, same reflectivity as a dark pavement, exposures in the 1/250 sec range. Check the 'Articles' section of this forum, there is a quick explanation of the various camera/telescope configuration that work for most applications.

Good luck,
Steve
Scopes; Meade 16 LX200, AT80LE, plus bunch just sitting around gathering dust
Cameras; Atik 460ex mono, Zwo ASI1600MC-cool, QHY5L-II color and mono
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Re: My optical equipment

#11

Post by bobharmony »

As you have done landscape photography, it may be helpful to think of the Moon as a distant object lit by sunlight (because that's what it is). As such, focus at infinity and very short exposure times are in order. For a full Moon, using ISO 400 and f2.8, exposures in the thousands of seconds are appropriate. With such exposure times the tripod isn't really needed. Be sure to use the camera RAW setting to make sure no detail is being removed by the camera. The Nikor 55-300 lens will get you the best Moon detail when zoomed near the max, as the other lenses will only cover a very small part of the sensor.

Experimentation is a key to finding the sweet spot for your camera/lens combination. And welcome to the forum!

Bob
Hardware: Celestron C6-N w/ Advanced GTmount, Baader MK iii CC, Orion ST-80, Canon 60D (unmodded), Orion SSAG
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#12

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

Thanks Steve.

I think my head is about to explode with all the technical information I'm getting :veryconfused: , which is a good thing, but I need to write down the most important steps and camera settings, then start experimenting from there.

When Moon conditions are right, I'm going to start with my Nikon D60 DSLR camera with the 55-300mm telephoto lens attached. At the moment, Moonrise here is 1.30am, so for it to be high enough to capture it well above the horizon from my home that would usually be around 3am. Being surrounded by trees, I would have to travel from home to a clearer location away from most of the trees.

I don't normally do a lot of stargazing into the early hours of the morning, as I'm too tired by about 11pm, but if the skies are clear enough one night I may make an exception and stay up a bit later :asleep:

Unfortunately, I've come into astronomy as the evenings are getting lighter for longer, and consequently you have to go later into the night to get a good sky view.
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#13

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

Thank you for that Bob 8-)
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Re: My optical equipment

#14

Post by helicon »

Congrats on the 8" scope Vanessa. Looking forward to a first light report when you get it.
-Michael
Various scopes, 10" Zhumell Dob, ES AR152, AWB 5.1" Onesky newt, Oberwerk 25x100 binos, two eyeballs
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#15

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

helicon wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 2:21 pm
Congrats on the 8" scope Vanessa. Looking forward to a first light report when you get it.
Thank you Michael. I'm getting quite excited now :dance:
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Re: My optical equipment

#16

Post by pakarinen »

I only have an iPhone and an old small digital point and shoot camera, but I recently started playing with lunar photography with and without a telescope. The results have been at best mediocre, but they're giving me incentive to keep trying.

Here's one reference that might be useful and there are many books out there also:

https://www.lightstalking.com/how-to-ph ... -the-moon/
The lamp once out
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The window frame.

~Soseki

Orion ST120, Meade AdventureScope ST80, Skywatcher 90mm Mak
Twilight 1 / Astro Devices encoders / Nexus II / Manfrotto 475B tripod
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#17

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

pakarinen wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 4:31 pm
I only have an iPhone and an old small digital point and shoot camera, but I recently started playing with lunar photography with and without a telescope. The results have been at best mediocre, but they're giving me incentive to keep trying.

Here's one reference that might be useful and there are many books out there also:

https://www.lightstalking.com/how-to-ph ... -the-moon/
Great link. :text-thankyouyellow:
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#18

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

I got an email today to say my telescope has been despatched and should arrive on Monday 18 May :Astronomer1: :dance:
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Re: My optical equipment

#19

Post by JayTee »

Congrats Vanessa,

Your scope arrives just in time for the new moon weekend. It is the time all non-moon loving amateurs cherish. A lot of us call the moon the "Evil Orb". But don't let my bias sway into our camp, you will arrive there naturally over time! :lol: :cool:

Cheers,
JT
∞ Scopes: Celestron CPC1100 #2 Scope: 8" f/7.5 Dob AP Scopes: TPO 6" f/9 RC, ES 80mm f/6 APO G&G Scopes: Meade 102mm f/7.8, Bresser 102mm f/4.5 Guide Scopes: 70 & 80mm fracs
∞ Mounts: iOptron CEM60, Celestron AVX, SLT & GT (Alt-Az), Meade DS2000
∞ Cameras: Canon T3i (x2), ZWO ASI294MC Pro & 120MC, Orion SSAG
∞ Binos: 10X50,10.5X70,15X70², 25X100
∞ EPs: ES: 21 100°, 30 82° X-Cels: 9, 12, 18, 25 GSO:15,20
Home Wx (click)

I never met a scope I didn't want to keep. "My God, it's full of stars." Searching the skies since 1966!
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Butterfly Maiden
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Re: My optical equipment

#20

Post by Butterfly Maiden »

My telescope arrived at 8.30am today via FedEx :dance:

We checked that all the parts were there first (which they were), then made a start of putting it together.

All the screws for the wooden supporting base have Allen heads, and out of the sixteen screws there was one that just wouldn't go in fully. There was about half an inch sticking out and the Allen key was starting to lose its grip on the head and it wouldn't turn any more. There were no spare screws to use either.

Fortunately, one of our neighbours came to the rescue, which was just as well, as he had to get his drill out and make the hole a bit wider. The screw then went in quite easily. We thanked him, and we were able to finish putting the other bits together ourselves after that.

The only thing left to do is set up the focusing of the finder scope. The instructions suggest doing it in daylight at an object about 500 yards away.
It's quite windy here at the moment, so I think we'll wait until it's a lot calmer before attempting that procedure.

No doubt I'll be having a few questions about using it when the time is right :roll:
Vanessa
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