Suggestions/Tips needed for night time sky photography

Started Mar 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Re: Suggestions/Tips needed for night time sky photography
In reply to Anotherlab, Mar 30, 2013

Nightscapes is something I tend to specialise in so I am happy to share my knowledge here.

I also have a Nex 6.

Here are some suggested setups:

1. Unless you use an astronomy mount to track the stars you will be limited in focal length and aperture. Generally the rule is 600 divided by focal length gives max exposure length before star trailing becomes distracting.

I usually use a wide lens like Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm and F2.8, 30 seconds and ISO 6400 long exposure noise reduction on. But you can use up to 50mm but then the exposure time is around 12 seconds tops.

So faster lenses are the go. F2.8 or better. Although I have found most fast lenses tend to have high chromatic aberration on nightscapes wideopen. I use live view to focus and magnify on a bright star ISO6400.

The EVF is good for this.

You will see if you have a fast lens like your 50mm F1.7 that wide open the star you are focusing on will probably have a red halo around it. As you stop down that disappears. My Samyang 24mm F1.4 for example has coma and chromatic aberration at F1.4 but by about F2 it has cleaned up and is useable.

The Nikon 14-24mm is useable at 14mm F2.8 (wide open).

F3.5 is a bit slow but you would still get some shots.

2. Of course you need a good tripod to make sure the camera is well supported and still.

So:

1. White balance to 4200K (that was for another camera so double check on Nex 6 but it should be about right).

2. Shoot in RAW for maximum flexibility in post processing (you can adjust white balance for example).

3. 30 seconds for 14mm, 20 for 24mm, 12 for 50mm lenses. Use lens at widest aperture before chromatic/coma aberration ruins it.

4. picture style to something vivid (not sure of Nex picture styles yet).

5. Long exposure noise reduction on.

6. I would tend to have noise reduction turned off and do any noise reduction in post processing as many noise reduction algorithims wreck faint stars.

7. Turn off oss.

You can also get a Vixen Polarie which is a really small portable mount for about $425. It is about twice the size of a Nex camera. These allow you to take longer exposures as it tracks the stars quite well and is easy to setup and use. Nex would be a good match for it as Polarie has a limited payload.

Nightscape time lapses are also fun. Just turn off long exposure noise reduction and oss and 20-30 seconds 16mm F3.5 ISO 6400 10 second intervals should give a nice result.

Of course you need dark skies for the above. If you are shooting from light polluted city areas then none of the above will work as sky glow from light pollution will exposre rapidly so you are much more limited in what you can shoot. Perhaps some star trails and not much more.

Greg.

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