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DSLR Settings

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This maybe a naive question ( I realise the number of variables that can affect things - and making general assumptions such as setting my polar alignment correctly etc) but in the hope of clear skies...

Im starting out with a Nikon D5000 DSLR + Quattro 10" f/4 + NEQ6 Synscan mount.

Please could someone give a range of basic camera settings (Exposure time - bulb setting / Aperture / iso) for...

1) Moon

2) Planets

3) Sun (using Mylar film)

As regards DSO's presumably as long as alignment is correct there is no such thing as too long an exposure?

I'd hate disappointment to dampen my enthusiasm... although with my investment in the kit i've just upgraded to thats unlikely!

ALSO I have a modded MS Lifecam Studio and will experiment with various software packages (both Win and MacOSX) but again are there basic settings I should look out for ... e.g. where should saturation level be?

Thanks for the help in anticipation


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I couldn't comment on the sun or planets specifically, but for lunar shots I'd say about 1/500th would be a good starting point. Your scope is f4, you might as well use the best ISO for the 7000 chip which is 100, so setting the shutter at a 500th should be about there... Ish.

As for 'too long an exposure' I'm only just learning myself, but generally light pollution, tracking and sensor noise/heat will be the limitations. 10mins seems an average upper level from a fair few on here.

I know its easy to suggest a book that has lots of answers, but a lot do suggest 'making every photon count' for good reason.

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DSOs.....sub length will depend on sky brightness.

For Canon dslrs expose for about 25% of the histogram, give or take a bit.

Not sure on Nikons but try around the quarter mark and make sure your not saturating.

Basically you want the data out of the read noise but you don't want to saturate.

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On the Moon and Planets you'll want similar exposure settings to those you'd use for normal daylight photography. They have a high surface brightness, being directly lit up by the Sun just as things are down here. (However, the planets are tiny. To get a reasonable size image you'd want to add a barlow in there which will increase the effective f-ratio of your scope, and will require increasing the ISO number and exposure time.)


As you can see, the Moon and plane show up fine in the same exposure.

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1:  The moon - Lunar disc.

well here its a very bright object, to the camera its like a rabbit in headlights, so we have to run fast shutters on our dlsr

do not be afraid to have the camera set at a LOW ISO say 200-400 ( this is like turning down the cameras power ), we want a fast shutter so try around 1/200s to 1/3000

having a fast shutter means that bright moon will not be so bright in our final image. Key thing is one image comes from a roll of 100+ images, you could take 20,000 picture and only 5 are any good.

so dont be downhearted if sometimes things do not seem to be going right, just keep playing with Low ISO and Fast shutter.

2: Planets 

bit more harder, here i would tend to shove my webcam into the scope and record 1000s of images in a few mins, alot faster than the dslr

and a smaller sensor will help to. here you would be playing with contrast - brightness and Gain - exposure via the webcam interface. 

3: Solar 

this is DSLR country same as for moon and DSO, we would be using either Nd5 or ND3.5 solar film ( the lower number is geared to photographic imaging and not viewing.

again it is more practice and getting the optical system focused, after that low'ish ISO say 400 , and a medium speed shutter so around 1/200 to 1/500 , these settings MAY NOT WORK

but they give you a rough base point to start on. the sun is a bright object to so like the moon we want fairly fast shutter and low'ish ISO.

4: DSO 

 with that quattro @f4 and your DSLR you can go DSO hunting , you have a very nice mount to so none guided you can still get some super sub lengths.

without guiding i would have said around 60s+ subs , thats 1 min exposures , if you go to guiding system your looking at 300s - 900s plus thats like a couple mins or more exposure.

the key with DSO is signal to noise, so its a practice makes perfect , we usually run a high ISO like 1600 - 3200 -4000  and higher but the cost is More noise from the camera as

it is forced to work harder and eat more power/produce more heat. and shutter speed is goverend manually by the user/computer system. 

the ISO and exposure rates above are more for a Canon dslr what i own, but the theory is the same for solar-lunar and Deep sky objects

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i found for solar white light shots, a shutter of anywhere between 1/2000 - 1/3200 is a good start also the lowest iso ie 100, just a tip that i was told it so try to slightly under expose the pic as tends to help with a bit of surface detail, i use a canon 500D with solar filter on the 150P.

hope this helps



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