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Banjo-tam

Is there any reason under the Sun to use film as opposed to digital cameras to do astrophotography

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I have a good collection of old film cameras, Nikon, Leica, etc., and am a member of Vintage Camera forums.  I realize that there are many benefits to using high end digital cameras for astrophotography, not the least of which is that you can set the ASA on many to over 25,000, reducing the tracking time significantly.

But I'm wondering if there might be a good reason to still use film?

Any thoughtful response appreciated.

 

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Love of that analogue film grain? Honestly can't think of any. I suppose it's arguably a cheaper way to get to very wide "sensors" e.g. medium format, but with a tonne of downsides!

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It's for masochists!!

Most of the post-processing tools that make digital astrophotography both productive and accessible just aren't available or are not easy to achieve with film and printing. Some are, and their digital equivalents get their name from darkroom activities such as stacking and unsharp masking.

You wouldn't want to stack and register tens or hundreds negatives though!

 

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There are creative things you can do in-camera with film that you can't do in-camera with digital.

The main one that comes to my mind is the thing I missed most of all when digital cameras first hit the consumer market - the ability to make multiple exposures on a single frame.

I feel that digital cameras subvert the creative process to an extent. With film, the photographer has to visualize the finished product and then figure out how best to achieve that. With digital it seems, one simply gathers lots of digital data and then manipulates it to achieve a (usually) technically correct image.

Or I could just be simply romanticizing something best filed away under "the good old days".  ;)

 

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None whatsoever.  Any reason to use steam engines or stone axes?????

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The nay sayers are wrong, say I. There are some reasons in widefield imaging to go for old school. Unless you've seen projected slides from slide film you will never have seen anything that looked so like the night sky with 'super-eyes.'  Here https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/340369-dark-seahorse-with-some-fireworks/ you see Maurice Toet as a master digital imager but I still remember clearly seeing some of his slide film images projected in our kitchen donkey's years ago. It's a different experience. Of course digital goes deeper but a projected slide looks like the night in a way that a digital image never does. Film probably isn't coming back but do let's enjoy that certain pre-(expletive!)-computer experience in the way that we enjoy Ansel Adams.

Olly

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I really cannot think of any reason to use film, not anymore. Want your hour long exposure ruined by an aircraft at the last moment? Yeah, right.

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Very much with Olly on this. 10 years ago I used to image widefield from very dark sky locations using a Hasselblad medium format camera and Kodak E200 film and exposures around 20-30 minutes. Those projected 6x6 cm slides were absolutely stunning. E200 had a colour palette that rendered the sky background nicely and showed sufficient red sensitivity to record HII regions more pleasingly and convincingly than available ‘one shot’ digital techniques. If it was still available, I’d still be using it for that sort of imaging. But it’s gone ...   I continued to use the Hass. lenses for CCD imaging and they work well; if anyone wanted to try that, the 250 CF is imv the pick of the bunch.  Very sharp even wide open and, designed as it is for 6x6, swallows up many CCD sensors (mine was the QSI583) with ease.  No question of the advantage of digital techniques in most applications, but I think the demise of this particular film stock has left a gap that hasn’t yet been effectively filled.  All that said, it was medium format kit which scanned produced a lot of data and big file sizes - I have an image of the Cygnus region that comfortably prints to a metre square. 35mm would obv be more limited. Medium format lenses can be picked up pretty cheaply s/h - if you wanted to give it a go with ccd, you’d need to find a way to attach them to your CCD as, afaik, there aren’t ready made adapters available. Worth the trouble, because, from what I’ve seen, they clearly out perform lenses like the 35mm Nikons.

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Sorry, I need to correct something I wrote above: the lens I mentioned is the F lens, 250 mm f4 Tele-Tessar, not the CF. The F lens is shutterless.

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😆 Not really, Andrew.  Speaking as one who has frequently lugged kilos of ccd equipment off to the Canaries, running the gauntlet of unpredictable checkin assistants, copping sometimes massive excess baggage fees, scrambling up mountains, grovelling in the dust to polar align, tripping over birdsnests of wires, falling asleep as the imaging equipment ticks away before staggering blearily back down again and crashing out in an uncomfortable bed ... that is masochism.  Trust me, the work with film - just a camera and a good ‘ol GPDX running off the car battery ... by comparison, that was bliss.

The real point is that, in that specific application, that particular film did better than digital - in everything else, of course, digital wins. As for using camera lenses on ccds, given the short fls typically involved, that’s possibly the technically least demanding kind of ccd imaging you can do.  No getting away from the wires, of course ... 😖

John

 

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@JTEC masochism takes many forms and is not restricted to any one branch of our hobby.

Regards Andrew 

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That’s for sure ... and there is no lack of opportunity 😐

Notwithstanding what I’ve said in support of film, I’d have to say to the OP that I don’t think there’s any point in taking the film route now.  It does most things that astronomers want to do less well than digital, imv, and in any case, the technical support and favoured film stock are no longer there.

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4 hours ago, andrew s said:

Masochism.

Regards Andrew 

Not necessarily. Bill Gates doesn't even know you exist.....*

:Dlly

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9 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

Not necessarily. Bill Gates doesn't even know you exist.....*

:Dlly

Yes,  but still you prostrate yourself at the feet of his creations in pursuit of yours.

If that's not masochism what is?

Regards Andrew 

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There are convenience and practicality issues that have been raised by others. Don’t forget for the best film based astrophotography,  hypersensitisation using a whole range of occult recipes was routinely used to combat reciprocity failure. That made deep sky imaging seriously complicated.

The more important point is that any sensor and processing train introduces specific distortions. And in the case of aesthetic decisions, such as vision and hearing, it comes down to your own preferences. Just as people assure me that analogue vinyl, plus an all valve amplifier chain, reproduces the music more ‘faithfully’ than digital recording. What they mean is they prefer the particular distortions of analogue music to digital. That’s fine, but don't tell me it is more accurate.

So if you wish to experiment with film, and like the result, go for it. There is plenty of online information on how it was done. For me the only thing that matters is the pleasure you get from the hobby. I had a colleague who delighted in making  B&W platinum prints. A process that is expensive, complicated, uses hard to get ingredients, and could only make contact prints. The results were beautiful, but not beautiful enough to make me put up with the hassle. Similarly I have no desire to go back to film photography of any sort.

 

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I had (Still have) a hankering after making Pd / Pt prints but the cost has always been eye watering, and is getting worse. Done salt prints with 10x8 negs before. Hmmm....thinks.....strap the ten-eight monorail to an equatorial mount... Nope, going to lie down in a darkened room.

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1 hour ago, DaveS said:

... Nope, going to lie down in a darkened room.

Very wise!

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On 25/08/2019 at 21:51, Banjo-tam said:

I have a good collection of old film cameras, Nikon, Leica, etc., and am a member of Vintage Camera forums.  I realize that there are many benefits to using high end digital cameras for astrophotography, not the least of which is that you can set the ASA on many to over 25,000, reducing the tracking time significantly.

But I'm wondering if there might be a good reason to still use film?

Any thoughtful response appreciated.

 

Many many down sides to be honest. I think I would avoid it just because you will have a very hard time focusing is nothing else. You could get a 50pound Canon 1000D from e-bay and do vastly vastly more. 

Edited by Adam J

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