Low budget camera for night sky photography (2017)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Oliequeen, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Hello! I'm a beginner in photography. I was really attracted by the night sky pictures.
    I want to buy a new camera for night sky shooting and I want suggestions for a low budget one as I'm still a beginner!

    Thank you !


     
  2. photo1x1.com

    photo1x1.com TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Hi there and welcome to the forum.
    Can you give us a ballpark for your budget so we can better help you?
    For night sky one important thing is darkness. If you live near a big city like me, it is pretty difficult to get some nice nightskies without travelling.
    You better check first if you are living in a good place for taking night sky images, or if you have the budget to get to a place where you can get great shots: www.lightpollutionmap.info
    Second: there are great apps for checking the sky in your area. Shooting the milky way is creating the best output - but you need to know where it is and when it is there. I use www.photopills.com it has a cool VR function that gives you an overlay of the sky projected on a live image from your camera.
    But let´s check your budget first before we get too much into detail.
     
  3. goodguy

    goodguy Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Nikon D3300 with its basic kit lens Nikon 18-55mm
    Very good and very affordable beginners set
     
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  4. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for your support!
    I'm willing to spend about 500-600$. Unfortunately i live in a big city too, but i have the opportunity to visit the countryside once in a while. These apps seem pretty useful though!
     
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  5. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for your answer. I've seen prety good reviews for this camera all over the web, and it seems to be close to my budget. Sure it'll be on the list :D
     
  6. photo1x1.com

    photo1x1.com TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    The suggested D3300 is a good choice - what you need is low noise and in your budget this seems like a great camera, if you look at noise comparisons (e.g. dpreview.com). Regarding the lens - of course there are better lenses, but those will cost you a lot more, so to start with the kit lens is a good idea. You can sell it afterwards if you decide to upgrade.
    What you´ll definitely need is a tripod.
    Do some reading on night sky photography - especially the shutter speed is very important to get sharp images of the stars rather than star trails. Do a search for "the 500 rule".
     
  7. goodguy

    goodguy Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I own this camera, great camera for reasonable budget.
    I agree with "photo1x1" for night shots you will most definitely need a tripod.
     
  8. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    To make everything work, you will need:

    1) A tripod -- or some way to position the camera so that it is absolutely still during the long exposure. If the camera can move or vibrate even a tiny bit during the exposure then the image is ruined.

    2) A camera body with a "large" sensor. It should be an APS-C size sensor (roughly 22mm x 15mm) or larger. This is because there's a formula that determines how long the camera shutter can be open to take an image of the stars (which appear to be in motion because the Earth is spinning) before the stars begin to elongate. Part of the formula depends on the sensor size (specifically on the "crop factor" of the sensor) and it turns out the smaller the sensor, the shorter the exposure duration can be before the stars begin to elongate. Larger sensors get to take longer exposures. This is key because you're trying to gather up as much light as you can.

    3) A wide-angle lens with a low focal ratio. Another part of the formula accounts for the focal length of the lens. Shorter focal length lenses can take longer exposures. Of course the focal ratio of the lens determines how much light can be collected during any given period of time. Basically you're trying gather as much light as you possibly can (you're trying to image very faint amounts of light). This means anything you can do to collect more light (either by having a lower f-stop - or by having a focal length that allows you to collect light for a longer period of time) will be helpful.

    Rokinon makes a few completely manual lenses that are wide angle and have low focal ratios, and ... considering they are inexpensive lenses (relative to the cost of most lenses) they actually have surprisingly good optics. But even a "cheap" lens is likely going to run a couple hundred dollars. You could use the kit lens to get started, but it's not optimal for this sort of photography. So I might not buy this on day 1... but I'd put it high on the list of things to get once you have the funds.

    4) You'll likely use "bulb" mode on the camera. Most cameras will not take an exposure longer than 30 seconds UNLESS you activate bulb mode. But now you need a way to control the shutter. Typically that would be by using a wired remote shutter release that has a timer on it. But some modern cameras *might* have features that get around this... some camera models have a built-in timer that lets you dial in any number of seconds you want... and some cameras support connection to a smart phone that would also let you set an exposure for any number of seconds you want. If the camera has this then you don't need a remote shutter release. But at the end of the day... you want to make sure whatever you buy has *some* feature that lets you control an exposure duration of any number of seconds you choose... not just the preset times that you can find on the shutter speed dial.

    Nice to have stuff (but not required):

    Being able to focus the camera is a bit tricky. You need to find a bright star and focus it down so it's just a pin-point of light. It does NOT have to be located in the area of sky that you want to shoot... it can be any bright star in any part of the sky. But once you focus, don't touch the focus ring again (and make sure the lens is in manual focus mode.) You can re-point the camera to the area you plan to photograph. Canon and Sony cameras have "exposure simulation" in live-view mode. Most Nikon cameras do not have this feature (it was introduced for the Nikon D810a -- I don't know if they started adding it to other cameras after the D810a). Exposure simulation makes focus much easier.

    There are focusing aids such as the Sharp Star 2 (by Lonely Speck) but these require a filter holder. This is another couple hundred dollars by the time you're done.

    Two good resources are the websites: PhotographingSpace.com and DSLR-Astrophotography.com
     
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  9. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Wow thank you for your extensive answer! I'll give a look to the websites you posted at the end! Everything seems a bit complicated for now as to how i must spend my money :beguiled:. But i believe i'll find a solution! Thank you again!
     
  10. photo1x1.com

    photo1x1.com TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I don´t know too much about Nikons, but I just received a flashsale Email from Adorama if this is interesting for you D5300 Kit for 459,95:
    Nikon D5300
    No referral link, just the Email I received.
     
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  11. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Maybe i was a bit late and lost the offer :apologetic:. That was a fair deal!
     
  12. Oliequeen

    Oliequeen TPF Noob!

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    Maybe i was a bit late and lost the offer :apologetic:. That was a fair deal!
     
  13. photo1x1.com

    photo1x1.com TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Too bad ;). I just reread - it was a refurbished offer. Perhaps there was only one. Maybe you would have wanted to buy a new one anyway ;)
     

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