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Help/advice needed on imaging equipment


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I need some advice/opinions on the best way to do some half decent imaging. I’m thinking along the lines of a DSLR rather than a webcam set-up as the idea of leads trailing into the house or the expense of buying a laptop doesn’t really appeal and it would get used outside astronomy. What would be the most suitable cameras to consider, what features do I need to look for, what extras would I have to buy to attach it to the ‘scope etc etc.

Andy.

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Lo Andy

Looking around at peoples Sigs, the popular choice of DSLR's would be the Canon 300D or 350D. After that You would need a T-mount < http://www.scopesnskies.com/prod/T-mount%20adaptors/SLR-cameras/rings.html > and an eyepiece adapter < http://www.scopesnskies.com/prod/antares/astro-camera-adaptor/2inch-sct/camera.html > like these. After that you could add a timer and a Canon Angle C-finder but they can wait.

I'm sure someone else will come in with a different approach and give you more info.

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I'm sure someone else will come in with a different approach and give you more info.

Okay, here I come... go with what he says. 300Ds can be picked up for £200 without a lens (don't need one for astrophotography). They're great cameras, and 6 megapixels is more than enough for astro work. If you want to use it for photography (yes! do it!) get the 350D 18-55mm lens kit, probably pickuppable for £400 new.

Nikons are great too, or the new Sony A100. DSLRs are basically all the same feature-wise, so you can't go far wrong. EBay it, then come back with results... or don't come back at all...

sorry. I've stopped now.

Andrew

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The 2 main makes for DSLR astro photography are Nikon and Canon. These are also the only makes (at the moment) that you can get camera control software, such as focussing and timed exposures. This could be useful if at a later stage you got a laptop.

The other accessory not mentioned previously would be a cable remote release so you can do timed exposures of 30 secs and above. You would need this for images of globular clusters, nebula's etc. The cable release also stops you jogging the camera when taking any shots.

MD

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WRT Nikon cameras, beware that they have "issues" with RAW files in that they are not as raw as they should be. The camera software does a median filter before saving the image to the card. Very naughty as it blurs your pinpoint stars. Mine is a D50 and has this "feature" but I suspect that it is common to other models.

I'd go for the Canon if I were buying one again, as it talks to software more easily (the D50 doesn't interface with DSLRFocus software, for example).

Captain Chaos

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The main things to look for are:

It does what you want all round and fits in your price bracket.

remote release available and not to expensive.

Its a true DSLR and not something like the minolta or fuji which are semi slr's ( ie interchangable lenses)

6mp minimum.

after market accessories will fit.

large rear screen and optical viewfinder not a mini lcd screen viewfinder.

Interval shooting facility is handy

full manual and bulb setting including manual focus

Oh and mirror lock is very handy, if not a delay setting so it only starts the exposure once the mirror is up ( this reduces vibrations)

If your scope(s) have a 2 " focusers then definatly go for a t mount and 2" t mount adaptor

I just picked up a samsung GX1 - L for £399 including 18mm-55mm and 50mm-200mm AF zoom lenses along with a 3 year warranty, its identical to the pentax 1st DSLR and accepts all pentax lenses/after market accessories.

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Thanks for all the info gents. Looks like it ought to be a Canon/Samsung. Are there any major differences between the two or is it just a case of more money, better badge and are the accessories such as 'scope mounts and remote releases easily available for both? CC - what you said about the Nikon was interesting but can you bring me up to speed about RAW files and median filters, i.e. what are they and how do they differ from jpg/bmp files?

Forgive the novice questions but if don't ask 'll never learn. :D

Andy.

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Righto.

The RAW file is supposed to be just what it says on the tin, the raw, unprocesed image that the camera captures. Each DSLR has options for how much the colour is re-balanced automagically, how much the image is artificially sharpened in the processing and by how much the colour saturation is modified. The RAW image is supposed to bypass all that nonsense and let the photographer process the image how they see fit. A median filter is a sort of digital softening process which is designed to mask any dust on the sensor. The camera digitally blurs the image and then digitally resharpens it back to where it was but without any really sharp edges. the problem comes with the stars as they are meant to have really sharp edges. blur the edges and there's very little detail left. Basically an astrophotograph is ALL edges.

HTH

Captain Chaos

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personaly if cash wasnt an object I would probably plump for the canon 400D, but the body alone will cost as much if not more than the samsung, if the budget is tight then grab the samsung and try it out, its not bad and you can use the seculine twin 1 remote release with it which works both via infra red and wired ( the cable is included with it) The other bonus I have fouind is that older pentax manual focus K mount lenses can be bought quite cheaply on ebay giving a larger scope when using the camera and lenses for wide field shots. ( I recently picked up a 135mm F2.8 and 200mm F4 lenses for £12 a piece on ebay)

The samsung shoots in raw mode as well and supports SD memory cards up to 1GB in size ( again they are cheap cards to buy now)

I am waiting to get my new mount up and running before doing any serious stuff but theres a lunar shot in the lunar pics section I did with the camera just on a photo tripod and I have done several wide field shots of orion etc with out problems.

Heres a link to the place I bought mine..http://www.equipmentexpress.co.uk/shop/acatalog/Samsung_Digimax_GX_1L.html Delivery was next day and the price has dropped by a tenner now as well..

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this is a hard one Andy , if you are really into astro imaging depends on how far you want to go mate , you just cant beat the true CCD camera for really good images , , true with the DSLR , you can get some pretty good results , so dont all jump down my throat , lovely wide fields can be taken with the DSLR, so i.m not trying to put you off,indeed i have a 350d myself , and intend to use it on very wide field usage,so that will give me a huge coverage of whatever i need to image , i understand what you say about trailing leads etc ,that would be a prob without a lap top,so looks like you will go for the DSLR ,but beware , if the bug bites , i think you may have to re think again as to how far you want to take this hobby, but good luck in whatever you decide , will look foward to some images from you soon .

Rog

:D

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I see exactly your point Rog. While the budget is reasonably flexible at the moment, I can justify spending on a new SLR but to go for a dedicated astro set up may not go down too well on the domesic front. Just out of interest though, what would be needed to get up and running with a CCD system?

Andy.

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Ok well at the moment Andy , you have come in at maybe just the right time , i know that Atik have bought out a new camera , where as mine is £1200 , this one is a new design , and is aimed at the beginners and also those who have been imaging some time , these camera,s are very sensitive and are ideal for DSOs ,and at an affordable price , i think just below the £400 mark , so this is something to be aware of maybe later for you,so thats about it really , but with any imaging , you will need a range of filters etc , For dslr , filters would be that more expensive , whereas the inch and a quarter filters are a lot cheaper, filters are without doubt required in this country , we would be lost without them , so anyway , what would it cost ,

you have the scope so thats fine ,

CCD £400

HA filter £80

Cls filter £40.

and some free software , like kccd

This of course you have to link to a computer ,

thats about it

Its just something to think about , thats the cheapest way for good results .

the camera model is the Atik CE. I will hopefully be testing these for Modern Astronomy as soon as he gets some in.

Think really hard Andy before you decide what you really want to do .

Cheers

Rog

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OK, after a lot of thought, I have decided to go for an SLR and am torn between these two:

http://www.equipmentexpress.co.uk/shop/acatalog/Canon_EOS_350D__.html

http://www.equipmentexpress.co.uk/shop/acatalog/Samsung_Digimax_GX_1L.html

Both will be plenty good enough for day to day photography but are either particularly suited to astro work?

The Samsung seems to offer a lot for the money.

Andy.

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