Best Settings For Star Pics?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Miaow, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. Miaow

    Miaow TPF Noob!

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    Just wondering what are the best settings for getting a good clear pic of the stars?

    I was playing around last night (finally got a tripod for the Canon YAY ) but I'm getting some movement on the stars (star trails i think) which i don't actually want.

    I was using ISO200, F5.6 at about 175mm (75-300mm Zooms lens) and a 30 sec exposure - thinking the long exposure would make them clearer but obviously as i mentioned I'm getting some movement in the stars so I gather thats too long or is it also cause of using the zoom as well?

    So i thought I'd ask here what others find the best settings for a nice clear shot are.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Tasmaster

    Tasmaster TPF Noob!

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    The zoom has nothing to do with movement. I don't know if 30 seconds is long enough for movement to have an effect, but it might also be the camera shaking because of the mirror. Are you using mirror lock-up?

    Apart from your camera, the best setting is as far away from city lights as you can get!
     
  3. skipper34

    skipper34 TPF Noob!

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    With a lens at 175mm you will see stars trail at about 15 seconds. The longer the focal length of the lens used for star images, the less time can be exposed because of the movement of the earth. For focal lengths like this you need some sort of clock-driven mount. If you use a normal lens or wide-angle you can expose for longer periods, up to about 30 seconds without trailing. To keep the stars as pinpoints, you need to stop the lens down 1 or 2 stops. Astrophotography will test a lens to its limit as far as how good the lens is. Chromatic abberations will show up on star images more than anything else you shoot. For images of the night sky which show lots of stars, nebulae, clusters, etc., the camera must be guided on an equitorial mount with a clock drive. This is why astrophotographers use a telescope on a clock-driven EQ mount and attach the camera onto the telescope tube via a piggy-back mount and let the mount guide the camera through the exposure. I have taken images of the night sky with this set-up with a camera and wide-angle lens(17-40 EF)stopped down to f5.6 or f8 for up to 2 minutes without trailing. The mount must be accurately polar aligned, however, for this to work, but that's another subject.
     
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  4. Tasmaster

    Tasmaster TPF Noob!

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    Guess i stand corected. How does the small magnification factor matter given the extremely long distance from the stars? Any links that explain how it works?
     
  5. shorty6049

    shorty6049 TPF Noob!

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    it works because you're still zooming in, or basically cropping the rest of the sky smaller than at a wide angle, so any tiny movement in the stars gets magnified by that amount. So at a really wide angle, they barely move at all, but when you zoom way in, and only see a small portion of the sky, everything moves throught he view faster. Same deal with a telescope. You have to make adjustments more frequently than at a lesser focal length
     
  6. Tasmaster

    Tasmaster TPF Noob!

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    Got it, thanks for the info.
     
  7. Miaow

    Miaow TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the info :thumbup:

    Will try another pic using the usual 18-55 rather than the zoom and see how it works out :)

    Should i have the ISO higher than the 200 it was on also?
     
  8. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    With a 56 mm equivalent lens, I got trails with exposures longer than 15 seconds. If you don't have access to a motorized mount nor a faster lens, you will have to up the ISO to get a brighter picture.
     
  9. skipper34

    skipper34 TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I start at ISO 400 as a minimum. It depends on how dark the site is for shooting also. High ISO will be more light sensitive but will also add noise. If your camera has noise reduction, turn it on. If you are at a dark site with little or no light pollution, you can run higher ISO and capture more stars, but you also run the risk of sky glow creeping into your frame. It's a trial and error game like no other. If you use the 18-55, stop it down 1 or 2 and crank up the ISO. Otherwise the lens will scream out with aberations, especially at the edges of the frame. If you are using a Canon XT or 20d or newer, it will have noise reduction.
     
  10. rzambranap

    rzambranap TPF Noob!

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    I've shot up to two minutes with no discernable movement
     
  11. enigma67

    enigma67 TPF Noob!

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    I have had some problems with photographing the stars in the night-sky, so I read this thread, and from what I can understand I have absolutely to little equipment to do this. Is it not possible to take "ok" photos of the stars with just my basic Canon EOS 1100D with a normal lens?
     
  12. Patrice

    Patrice No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The length of the trails in any one exposure is dependant on the length of the exposure. The stars in the sky appear to make a complete revolution around the North Star (Polaris) (not exactly right but close enough for this discussion) once in 24 hours. That works out to 15 degrees of arc in one hour. So if you want your trails to go 1/10 of the way around then your exposure needs to be 1/10 of 24 hours, or 2 hours and 24 minutes. You can try this with one exposure or with more exposures of a shorter period spaced really close together and then merged into one image. Do not move the camera even one tiny little bit during any of this.

    Any DSLR and kit lens on a tripod can take star trail images. The effect is quite noticeable when the camera is aimed in a such a way that the North Star is somewhere in the frame as well as some terrestrial features. Other than the really bright stars up there, the light from stars is comparatively pretty dim. The faster apertures and the higher iso's are your friends.

    Focus is really pretty hard to nail down with stars, because they are dim and they are small. Plus a lot of kit lenses do not have a hard stop at infinity. So you need to focus manually. Trial and error are the key words. Take a test shot and look for focus in on the image at max enlargement on the preview screen. Might take a few tries before you nail it. Once you have it do not touch the focus ring anymore, set your camera on the tripod, use a remote control for multiple exposures and most importantly have fun with it.

    After a few trial and error attempts you'll be getting images just as nice as the pros get.
     

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