Astro Landscapes (Starscapes) with Fuji?

Started May 21, 2016 | Discussions thread
Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 10,387
Re: Fuji X Exceptionally Low Long Exposure Noise

Hi Derek,

I have done a lot of this type of shot.

Here is a panorama I took ages ago with an XE1:

Fuji performance.

1. Firstly Fuji is very low noise and this is a big advantage. However Fuji rates its ISO too high so ISO3200 on your A7 will be more like ISO6400 on your Fuji. Perhaps not that much more but close. So if you would use ISO 3200 on your A7 you would use ISO6400 on the Fuji.. No real problem there as both these cameras handle ISO6400 well.

2. XF14mm is a great astro lens. Its almost perfect except slight coma in the very extreme corner. The manual focus ring lock is a great feature at night.

3. You can turn off the LCD on the A7. You simply set it to EVF only (I am pretty sure there is menu item for this or perhaps that's only the A7r2.).

4. Best to use a portable tracker for this type of shot it opens up a lot of possibility otherwise you are shooting always a little too short to pick up enough signal. F2.8 is the ideal F ratio don't be lured by F1.4 or F1.8 you will find they are poor performers wide open with excessive CA on brighter stars. 90 seconds ISO1600 is close to ideal. Longer than that and the landscape starts to blur as the tracker moves with the stars. Take a separate set of landscape shots in that situation and blend together in photoshop.

5. Typical astro nightscape photo is 14mm 2.8 on a full frame or the XF14 (21mm equivalent) in Fuji F2.8 ISO6400 x 30 seconds. LENR on, in RAW and I used Velvia for a bit more colour, auto white balance (both Fuji and Sony have great auto white balance for astro shots).

6. Focus using EVF and ISO6400, set on a bright star and use magnified view. With the XF14 you lock the focus ring when set. With the A7xxx you are either careful not to touch the focus ring or tape it off with some non marking masking tape (blue masking tape).

7. If you do a panorama its 3 up and 6 across roughly.

8. You will notice your full frame captures more light as it has 2.5X greater area so the Fuji will be a dimmer but the colours of the Fuji are nice. The simple 18-55 2.8 zoom is also great for astro at 18mm and wide open. Now that is rare.

9. Sony has a hot pixel suppression algorithim so if you go over 30 seconds it can start to eat dim stars. I am not aware of any problem with Fuji.

10. Thermal noise (colour dots in dim areas) is low with both but is easily fixed in LR with the colour noise slider. Fred Miranda has a colour thermal noise plug in that is free.

11. One trick. Take a dark - same exposure length with the lens cap on. When you process your image in Photoshop open up the dark, add it as a layer to your light exposure and set it to difference. It will now subtract out any amp glow or noise. It improves contrast and reduces noise.

So in short the Fuji is an excellent nightscape camera and I would rate as the best in class in APSc (not that I have tried every APSc camera but look at the high ISO charts and Fuji noise is always best at high ISO or close to it). I have shot the XE1 and XT1 this way and both are the same in that regard. They are much better than at the time Sony Nex 6.

Sony A6000 though it may not be any better and probably not as good as Sony A6300 but I haven't got one. Just a prediction. But the star eater thing makes Sony not necessarily the best choice. You can still get superb results but either expose longer for a solid signal or keep to 30 seconds.

Sony though has the Zeiss Loxia 21mm F2.8 emount lens which is the best lens I have ever used for nightscapes and is a total gem and in a class of its own. World's best. The new Zeiss Batis 18mm would also be good at F2.8 with a little distortion slider in LR.

The other advantage of a tracker is to use higher F ratios like F4 or F5.6 where all these lenses shine better and use a longer exposure. F4, 90 seconds ISO3200 will work nicely.

I have not noticed any of these cameras to heat up and get more noise. In fact I have done 15 minute exposures on the XE1 no problem (on a portable tracker well aligned) and 1 hour exposures ISO200 on a Nikon D800e no problem (on a telescope mount).

I like the colour and rendering of the XT1 in these shots. Sony is way brighter though. I mean way brighter not a bit brighter for the same settings. But that just means you shoot with a higher ISO than with the full frame for a similar result.

So Fuji is very good but having shot with both A7r and XT1 at the same time with the same lens (Nikon 14-24mm) the Sony won simply due to physics - larger sensor to catch the dim light.

By the way the top nightscape imagers usually use a 1/3rd moon rising behind them with the Milky Way in front of them and a nice scene like a tree, a lake (gets star reflections on the water) or a beach/coastal outlook or a rural scene of some sort or mountains to create an ideal image.

Landscape details will be quite dim and noisy even with 30 seconds and ISO6400 at a dark site. The moon helps with backlighting and the Milky Way is always the secondary subject with the landscape being the primary subject. So frame with something like 1/3rd landscape in the shot. Not all sky or a tiny amount of landscape and then all sky. I made that error a lot at first. All sky is not interesting enough.

My latest image is Sony A7r2 and Zeiss Loxia 21 F2.8, a panorama at a dark site. The green is airglow and is a natural thing (ionised oxygen in the atmosphere a bit lie  aurora).


 Astrophotographer 10's gear list:Astrophotographer 10's gear list
Sony Alpha a7R II Sony Alpha a7R III Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 Zeiss Loxia 21mm F2.8 +1 more
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