Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Started Oct 8, 2016 | Discussions
Max Iso
Max Iso Senior Member • Posts: 6,052
Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

So my GX7 is ordered, now i just wait, planning lenses. Already have a Minolta 50 1.7 waiting, as well as a Minolta 1.4TC. One thing i have been wanting to do is get into AP, mostly moon for starters but as i learn, i would like to do more. The title question is a bit rhetorical, i know people are using MFT for AP but im wondering what glass is being used.

I started a thread in the AP forum about lenses vs telescopes but there isn't much traffic there and they don't know specifically about MFT. Anybody here have an opinion on one or the other being better? Any particular legacy glass that's especially good for AP (any mount works, manual adapters are cheap) ? Im less interested in wider stuff like 100mm or 50 or 35 ect. Im wanting more to get into longer tele stuff, which is why i have been looking at scopes.

At this point im willing to hold off on the scopes though and start with lenses and see if those are good enough for my standards. I also don't want to spend much on lenses that will be using adapters as they are special use (for normal shooting i prefer AF) so im not interested in Canon L glass or the like. Less expensive legacy manual focus is the target.

Anybody know of zooms in legacy glass that are especially sharp? Long primes will work too of course. Bokeh isn't important, sharpness, price and FL are. Im currently scouring Dyxum and a few other sites for info. Any suggestions?

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Mark9473 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,908
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

On 2x crop sensors, Moon images start having an interesting scale and level of detail from a lens focal length of about 600 mm or more, and even then you'll be cropping. There's not going to be any legacy lens that is as good and as cost effective as a telescope. For about $1K you can get an apochromatic refractor telescope and the mount needed to hold it steady.

Edit: I just looked at your thread in the AP forum, and just to clarify, I meant 600 mm native i.e. 1200 mm FF eq.

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David Kieltyka
David Kieltyka Veteran Member • Posts: 5,085
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

One of my favorite ways of viewing the Moon is via my 400/3.5 Nikon lens with 2x TC attached and an E-M1 attached to the TC via adapter. I set the LCD for maximum magnification and then enjoy the live image as the lunar terrain zips past. 

-Dave-

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Astrotripper Veteran Member • Posts: 5,606
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?
17

Legacy lenses are not a good idea for astro. I've got a bunch of them, I even did some astro with them, but a cheap Olympus 45/1.8 completely demolishes any legacy glass I ever used for those purposes. Astrophotography really requires high class optics, and legacy lenses are very rarely it.

Here's my astro album on flickr . Look at descriptions for details on how the photo was taken.

You basically have few options for astrophotography:

Wide angle astro landscapes

This is where all you need is a camera, a lens (and a tripod) and some nice scenery under dark sky. And this is where a smaller sensor of Micro 4/3 puts you at a significant disadvantage to a 35mm format DSLR. There's nothing in MFT that could rival something like a Nikon D810 with a Sigma 20/1.4. There are however lenses that close some of that sensor gap, like Panasonic 1.4/12. But that costs a lot. If you choose to shoot with fish-eyes, MFT pretty much matches FF, since there's Olympus 1.8/8. But judging from what you wrote, this is not what you want to pursue.

Deep space wide field astrophotography

"Wide" in this context means something like this . You use focal lengths ranging from standard to telephoto (lets say 25mm to 150 mm). But to really get anywhere with those, you need a tracking mount. And here's where smaller Micro 4/3 cameras have an advantage. You can freely use any of the mobile star trackers and you should be able to get long enough exposures to do some serious imaging. And you don't need a sherpa or a 4x4 to get your equipment to a dark spot, you can just walk there with a backpack. There are enough good and affordable lenses to make this work. Go to Lenstip and check out their reviews, especially the section on coma.

This is basically a mobile version of "serious" astrophotography. So of course, we are talking image stacking here, a number one tool in any astrophotographer's toolbox.

The moon

You can shoot the Moon with any telephoto lens, the longer it is, the better. Here's what 300mm gets you (I'm pretty sure this one is a 1:1 crop). Here's what a cheap 1300mm MAK telescope gets you. And here's what a lot of post-processing can get you (750 newtonian with a 2x Barlow lens and a lot of time spent stacking and stitching). An affordable telescope on a cheap tracking mount will be enough to take amazing photos of the Moon (and Sun , with a proper filter). You can even manage without tracking, but that's inconvenient.

Deep space astrophotography with a telescope

A dedicated astrograph and an advanced tracking mount are very, very expensive. But you can manage with something much cheaper. Some telescopes are better than others. APO refractors are popular for AP, but usually limited in focal length (and can get pricey). Newtonian telescopes are a cheap way to get pretty large apertures (and focal lengths). But probably the bulk of the cost will be a tracking mount.

Now, this is where a smaller sensor has it's advantages. Both refractors and reflectors suffer from off axis optical aberrations. For refractors, that's field curvature and for reflectors, it's coma. So unless you use corrective optics (which can be as expensive as the scope itself, if not more), a large sensor just goes to waste, as only the image in the center will be of satisfying quality. With my SkyWatcher 150/750, I still got noticeable coma in the corners and edges of the frame (but managed to capture supernova with it, although that is a heavy crop). Plus, a smaller body means less flex and less issues with balancing the whole setup. Definitely a plus when dealing with cheaper telescopes.

And if you ever witnessed any equivalence argument, you probably heard about total light gathering and how poor 4/3 is at it. Well, with astrophotography, you simply gather more material for stacking and you can make up for a smaller sensor that way. Basically, light gathering is determined by how much time you have on your hands

However, sensor performance becomes very important as well. And not all sensors are created equal. Old 12mp sensors were all but useless for astro, with horrible pattern noise and all around shi**t performance at long exposures. New 16mp sensors are much better. However, the ones made by Panasonic suffer from much higher levels of dark current noise. You do remove that with dark frame subtraction when stacking, but it's still a pain. Because of this, your GX7 is the worst choice for AP as far as MFT goes. It was actually a reason I went with Olympus and not Panasonic. Doesn't mean you won't be able to get good results (I even got decent ones from E-PL1, as horrible as it was), but that's not the best MFT can do. And with new generation of sensors, I'm sure the gap will be even bigger.

To sum it up, you can do astrophotography with MFT just fine. The limiting factors will not be the camera, but your telescope, mount, access to dark skies and your post-processing skills. And weather, of course.

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Adrian Harris
Adrian Harris Veteran Member • Posts: 4,581
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

I have started doing some wide field astrophotography throughout summer with reasonable results. I am doing Milky Way with landscape type shots.

My GX7 was totally useless for this, but the GX8 is doing well. The biggest problem for me is lack of either suitable lenses or skill plus expertise.

I haven't figured out how to do astro landscape stitching yet so I need a wide lens and the nine millimetre Olympus is not fast enough at F4 and the 7 millimetre Olympus f2.8 is not sharp in the corners wide open so I'm not quite sure of my next step.

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Tommot1965 Senior Member • Posts: 1,015
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Great post.. thanks for that and the links to examples. .quality help cheers

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Max Iso
OP Max Iso Senior Member • Posts: 6,052
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Astrotripper wrote:

Legacy lenses are not a good idea for astro. I've got a bunch of them, I even did some astro with them, but a cheap Olympus 45/1.8 completely demolishes any legacy glass I ever used for those purposes. Astrophotography really requires high class optics, and legacy lenses are very rarely it.

Here's my astro album on flickr . Look at descriptions for details on how the photo was taken.

Very nice shots.

You basically have few options for astrophotography:

Wide angle astro landscapes

This is where all you need is a camera, a lens (and a tripod) and some nice scenery under dark sky. And this is where a smaller sensor of Micro 4/3 puts you at a significant disadvantage to a 35mm format DSLR. There's nothing in MFT that could rival something like a Nikon D810 with a Sigma 20/1.4. There are however lenses that close some of that sensor gap, like Panasonic 1.4/12. But that costs a lot. If you choose to shoot with fish-eyes, MFT pretty much matches FF, since there's Olympus 1.8/8. But judging from what you wrote, this is not what you want to pursue.

Luckily im not too interested in wider stuff, but if i change my mind some day i can always re-evaluate my gear.

Deep space wide field astrophotography

"Wide" in this context means something like this . You use focal lengths ranging from standard to telephoto (lets say 25mm to 150 mm). But to really get anywhere with those, you need a tracking mount. And here's where smaller Micro 4/3 cameras have an advantage. You can freely use any of the mobile star trackers and you should be able to get long enough exposures to do some serious imaging. And you don't need a sherpa or a 4x4 to get your equipment to a dark spot, you can just walk there with a backpack. There are enough good and affordable lenses to make this work. Go to Lenstip and check out their reviews, especially the section on coma.

This is basically a mobile version of "serious" astrophotography. So of course, we are talking image stacking here, a number one tool in any astrophotographer's toolbox.

The moon

You can shoot the Moon with any telephoto lens, the longer it is, the better. Here's what 300mm gets you (I'm pretty sure this one is a 1:1 crop). Here's what a cheap 1300mm MAK telescope gets you. And here's what a lot of post-processing can get you (750 newtonian with a 2x Barlow lens and a lot of time spent stacking and stitching). An affordable telescope on a cheap tracking mount will be enough to take amazing photos of the Moon (and Sun , with a proper filter). You can even manage without tracking, but that's inconvenient.

So here is the part im most interested in, although i include the below section of deep space telescope work. I do have a couple questions first (and by the way ty for much info in your post). For either of your telescope shots did you use a field flattener? One of the things i was told in the AP thread was i will NEED one.

Does that depend on the telescope, or the type (reflector vs refractor), is it only the cheapest scopes that need it? Is it only the fastest? Considering i haven't really done any AP before i didn't want to spend handfulls of cash up front, i wanted to tip toe in and see if i like it, if i do then i go further. So i was looking at some cheaper scopes ie sub $200 models, as far down as $60.

Are there no such thing as a decent cheap scope? I can say for sure that your first link of the 300mm lens would not satisfy me. The 2nd of the 1300 mak was ok but i would like sharper. The 3rd was great, would love results like that. My plan is to minimize any vibrations with E shutter and use multiple shots and stacking, maybe eventually getting a tracker if my interest peaks. I also have a shutter remote already for my GX7.

So i guess the only unknown is the optics of the scopes. I know reflectors are CA free essentially but your 3rd shot was with an achromat if im not mistaken and i saw no CA at all. Maybe you PP'd that out? I have two main concerns with reflectors. One, i don't like the idea of having to colimate. Im sure i could do it but i prefer less maintenance.

The 2nd thing is the upside down or reversed thing. If i attach my camera to a reflector, will the image be flipped? I know a refractor works just like a normal lens which i like. TBH i like the idea of a reflector more but these two unknowns are holding me back.

But i really like the idea of reflectors. They have no CA, they are lighter, you get more aperture for your buck and they have longer FL options. It's just those couple issues i am wondering about.

Deep space astrophotography with a telescope

A dedicated astrograph and an advanced tracking mount are very, very expensive. But you can manage with something much cheaper. Some telescopes are better than others. APO refractors are popular for AP, but usually limited in focal length (and can get pricey). Newtonian telescopes are a cheap way to get pretty large apertures (and focal lengths). But probably the bulk of the cost will be a tracking mount.

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Giiba
Giiba Regular Member • Posts: 368
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Astrotripper wrote:

Wide angle astro landscapes

This is where all you need is a camera, a lens (and a tripod) and some nice scenery under dark sky. And this is where a smaller sensor of Micro 4/3 puts you at a significant disadvantage to a 35mm format DSLR. There's nothing in MFT that could rival something like a Nikon D810 with a Sigma 20/1.4. There are however lenses that close some of that sensor gap, like Panasonic 1.4/12. But that costs a lot. If you choose to shoot with fish-eyes, MFT pretty much matches FF, since there's Olympus 1.8/8. But judging from what you wrote, this is not what you want to pursue.

I maintain a spreadsheet of m4/3 lenses for this purpose, see:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-5JkMAHVcVV4zLsEH8xlxoSeuhYURLoJtuJn57N9ues/edit?usp=drive_web

I use the standard (clear aperture area) x (angular area of view) x (max exposure time, before trailing) formula. You'll notice m4/3 lenses score far lower than FF lenses and this is because of clear aperture area which is far larger for equivalent fov. Something like the Sigma mentioned would score:

(160.5 mm*mm) x (1.53°*°) x (20sec) = 4911'ish

The best of m4/3 scores 1200-2000. That being said you can still do it and I've found success using lenses that score over 650. My favorites are the 15/1.7 and 8/1.8 and while I cannot compete with the best I do get milkyway images I hang on my walls at 24x18".

An example with the Oly 8/1.8 fisheye:

July milkyway over Clearwater Lake

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Bill Wallace Veteran Member • Posts: 6,997
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Thanks Astro.........

Bill

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Astrotripper Veteran Member • Posts: 5,606
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Max Iso wrote:

Astrotripper wrote:

The moon

You can shoot the Moon with any telephoto lens, the longer it is, the better. Here's what 300mm gets you (I'm pretty sure this one is a 1:1 crop). Here's what a cheap 1300mm MAK telescope gets you. And here's what a lot of post-processing can get you (750 newtonian with a 2x Barlow lens and a lot of time spent stacking and stitching). An affordable telescope on a cheap tracking mount will be enough to take amazing photos of the Moon (and Sun , with a proper filter). You can even manage without tracking, but that's inconvenient.

So here is the part im most interested in, although i include the below section of deep space telescope work. I do have a couple questions first (and by the way ty for much info in your post). For either of your telescope shots did you use a field flattener?

No, since I do not own a refractor. My newtonian would definitely benefit from using a coma corrector, but one is not available for it (not sure if there are general purpose ones). And the MAK I have is something like f/13 and I don't think it needs any corrective optics (it's also not particularly impressive in any regard).

One of the things i was told in the AP thread was i will NEED one.

If you are really serious about AP, then yes, as this is the only way you could fully utilize full area of the sensor in your camera. And I guess some telescopes need more corrections than others. I'm out of touch with what's currently on the market, though. But as I wrote, the bigger the sensor, the bigger the need to use corrective optics. With my cheapo SkyWatcher 150/750, I can get acceptable stars within a 1:1 crop that's about 2/3 or 3/4 of the shorter end of the frame. After that, coma starts to kick in. I have not had any experience with refractors to say for sure, but my guess is that the image in the centre should be acceptable even without flattener. But how big that area will be, I don't know.

Does that depend on the telescope, or the type (reflector vs refractor), is it only the cheapest scopes that need it? Is it only the fastest? Considering i haven't really done any AP before i didn't want to spend handfulls of cash up front, i wanted to tip toe in and see if i like it, if i do then i go further. So i was looking at some cheaper scopes ie sub $200 models, as far down as $60.

Don't bother with those cheap toys, you're not gonna get anywhere with those.

Are there no such thing as a decent cheap scope?

Exactly. At least not for any kind of astrophotography. They might be ok for casual visual observations, but AP is way more demanding of the gear.

I can say for sure that your first link of the 300mm lens would not satisfy me.

Yeah, 300mm is a bit short for the Moon. Samyang makes cheap 500mm mirror lenses. If they are as good as my Tokina, that might be worth a try. I think they even make them with T2 mount and offer a teleconverter for them. That could get you to 1000mm relatively cheaply and in relatively small package. But I have no idea about quality.

The 2nd of the 1300 mak was ok but i would like sharper.

The problem with shots from that MAK is that every small air turbulence will show. And it's something like f/13, so you end up using high ISO and shutter speeds might not be fast enough. Also, smaller maks are often very prone to shutter shock and my E-M10 does not have e-shutter. And I was using that MAK mostly on my balcony, so air turbulence was always a problem. As you can see, there's a lot of potential problems

The 3rd was great, would love results like that.

Yeah, that turned out well. But it also required massive effort in post. At 1500mm (750mm with 2x Barlow lens), you can only capture part of the Moon. So I had shot two series of photos. And then, for stacking, I had to split each photo into four smaller ones, since full res images were too big for stacking. So in the end, I get 6 separate stacks and it's time for stitching them together. A massive pain in the a**. That took a whole day to put together. I still have like 300gb of unprocessed material because it's so time consuming.

However, you have a Panasonic camera. And Panasonic cameras have high quality 1:1 sensor crop video (electronic tele converter I think it's called). This might be a much better way to shoot the moon. It will require stitching of course, but you avoid problems with shutter shock or image size limits in stacking software. And most stacking software aimed at processing moon and planets are optimized to work with video files anyway. I always wanted to try this approach, but now when I finally have a Panasonic body, I don't have a telescope to test it with.

My plan is to minimize any vibrations with E shutter and use multiple shots and stacking, maybe eventually getting a tracker if my interest peaks. I also have a shutter remote already for my GX7.

Whatever telescope or mount you get, I really suggest you get a motorized one. It can be a simple one axis motor, just as long as it's there. You would be surprised how fast that Moon flies by your field of view at 1500mm

So i guess the only unknown is the optics of the scopes. I know reflectors are CA free essentially but your 3rd shot was with an achromat if im not mistaken and i saw no CA at all. Maybe you PP'd that out?

I don't remember if I did specific CA removal. I might have enabled auto CA removal when converting RAWs. But in general, I have not had any problems with it, to be honest. When using a barlow lens or the MAK, there is a tiny bit of it, I'm sure, but other stuff (like seeing) is usually a much bigger problem.

I have two main concerns with reflectors. One, i don't like the idea of having to colimate. Im sure i could do it but i prefer less maintenance.

Yeah, collimation is annoying. Especially on cheap telescopes that have very fiddly mirror mountings that make it very hard to fine tune mirror positions. Unfortunately, reflectors can also need collimation, although I always assumed they are properly collimated when leaving the factory. But you'll probably get more useful information from someone who actually used one. Actually, I recommend you head over to cloudynights.com, where I'm sure you will receive much more precise information when it comes to telescope selection.

The 2nd thing is the upside down or reversed thing. If i attach my camera to a reflector, will the image be flipped? I know a refractor works just like a normal lens which i like. TBH i like the idea of a reflector more but these two unknowns are holding me back.

It does not matter at all. You can rotate the camera 360 degrees and set the frame whichever way you want. This is where a fully articulated screen comes in very, very handy.

BTW, here's what my MAK setup looked like .

But i really like the idea of reflectors. They have no CA, they are lighter, you get more aperture for your buck and they have longer FL options. It's just those couple issues i am wondering about.

The downside of reflectors is that they are big and need a solid mount to keep them stable. Catadioptric telescopes, like the MAK I have, are small and offer very long focal lengths at small size, but are slow (usually f/11 and slower) and are pretty much useless for anything other than planets and the Moon (and Sun). And you can look at reflectors as specialized telephoto lenses

As with anything, there's not a single silver bullet solution. It's like with camera lenses. Pick any three important properties, and you can only have two at the same time

One more advice. Buy second-hand. Especially when starting with such a niche. You will find that astro equipment depreciates even faster than cameras. Almost all of astro stuff I got, I bought used for 50-60% of the retail price. So when I decide to get rid of it, I might loose maybe 20% of my initial "investment". If you buy new, that's 50% of that price you throw away right of the gate. Engage your local astronomy community, that's usually the best place to buy used gear, instead of eBay or some such.

Good luck with your pursuit.

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Mark9473 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,908
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Max Iso wrote:

For either of your telescope shots did you use a field flattener? One of the things i was told in the AP thread was i will NEED one.

Does that depend on the telescope, or the type (reflector vs refractor), is it only the cheapest scopes that need it? Is it only the fastest?

You do need a field flattener for a refractor, either built-in or as an add-on accessory, when you want to image star fields and such.

For the Moon, you will not need a flattener, because you're either only using the center part of the sensor (when it's a fast refractor) or when you're using more of the sensor it's because the scope has a longer focal length and then the field curvature is proportionally smaller.

Here's a link to an old lunar image I have in my gallery, taken with an F = 700mm refractor (without flattener) on an old 4/3 DSLR, significantly cropped of course.

https://www.dpreview.com/galleries/5120988127/photos/1999468/p3299787

I'm on a mobile device right now and can't access more recent images taken with that same refractor. But I've used it with a barlow lens (a focal length doubler) and didn't have any problems with field curvature with the Moon almost filling the frame.

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Mark

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brycesteiner
brycesteiner Senior Member • Posts: 1,888
Here's my first time

I just did these this week. I thought I would try it since it's getting darker earlier and I was quite happy with it. I used the EM-5 II and the Panny 20mm

I was surprised actually.

I'm not really sure what to put the white balance at though.

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Max Iso
OP Max Iso Senior Member • Posts: 6,052
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Big thx for all the info. So ive been doing much reading and i think a refractor is what i will get the most out of. One last question, if i get a faster shorter model like a 90/500, wont using a 2x barlow essentially crop the center 40% or so, mostly cutting out the outer field curvature?

In a way that seems effectively what using a smaller sensor does no? And its funny you mention that Panny feature, i was just talking to my son about video stacking last night. GX7 video is pretty crisp for only 1080p and ETC gives another whopping 2.6 crop.

So if my above barlow assumption is correct, should i use a barlow on a wider scope or just get a longer fl and eliminate extra glass? If i know i want the reach anyway the longer seems best.

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Mark9473 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,908
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Max Iso wrote:

if i get a faster shorter model like a 90/500, wont using a 2x barlow essentially crop the center 40% or so, mostly cutting out the outer field curvature?

Yes that is correct (see my post above).

Just be aware that the 90/500 ED doublets don't have the same degree of correction for chromatic aberration than the more common 80/600 ED doublets (and a barlow won't change that).

Also, you have to choose how deep you want to jump into astrophotography. Particularly on the Moon, with an 80/600 or 90/500 you can just take a single image with the scope mounted on a heavy duty photo tripod. The shutter speed with these fast scopes will be fast enough to compensate for the Earth's rotation, so you wouldn't need a tracking mount.

If you want significantly better image scale, by using a barlow for example, you're quickly looking at a tracking mount and a lot more effort in image processing.

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Mark

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Max Iso
OP Max Iso Senior Member • Posts: 6,052
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Mark9473 wrote:

Max Iso wrote:

if i get a faster shorter model like a 90/500, wont using a 2x barlow essentially crop the center 40% or so, mostly cutting out the outer field curvature?

Yes that is correct (see my post above).

Just be aware that the 90/500 ED doublets don't have the same degree of correction for chromatic aberration than the more common 80/600 ED doublets (and a barlow won't change that).

Gotcha, that was my guess as well. I have been breaking this down systematically and what you guys have been saying now makes sense. I also now understand why in the AP world, aperture is said to be the limiting factor in resolution. Diffraction.

The larger the main objective, the less diffraction is present, regardless of FL. All FL really is, is magnification, similar to using an eyepiece or barlow. We can only magnify any given aperture so much before diffraction starts to limit detail, so it doesn't matter if it's FL or barlow or eyepiece, the limit for resolving power is the aperture. Beyond that you are just magnifying an already fuzzy image.

What i didn't realize before is why people in camera lenses don't think this way, but now i get it. Most camera lens users can move around. If they need more angular resolution, they can simply get closer to the subject. With AP that's not an option, so larger apertures (for less diffraction regardless of the amount and type of magnification) is the only other solution.

Also, you have to choose how deep you want to jump into astrophotography. Particularly on the Moon, with an 80/600 or 90/500 you can just take a single image with the scope mounted on a heavy duty photo tripod. The shutter speed with these fast scopes will be fast enough to compensate for the Earth's rotation, so you wouldn't need a tracking mount.

If you want significantly better image scale, by using a barlow for example, you're quickly looking at a tracking mount and a lot more effort in image processing.

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Mark

Yes this was on my mind. What if i take the frame stacking approach? If lets say im using a 100/500 with a 2x barlow (or a 100/1000mm which is F10, same thing in FOV and arc secs all things equal), at F10 i may have to bump up the ISO to get that SS fast enough to counter the rotation. Just a guess but lets say F10, ISO 1600 at 1/200 sec?

Well couldn't i stack images to just bring that noise back down? One thing i love about using a GX7 is it's full E shutter, so there is no vibration and with E shutter it can shoot at 10fps full rez. I may have to nudge the FOV along every now and then and i will end up cropping out a bit of the edges when aligning, but wouldn't that work?

I figure i could use as fast a SS/ISO as needed to really freeze the moon sharp and stack as needed for noise. The key IMO is the lack of vibration and fast FPS, it really opens doors for this kind of shooting, similar to how people stack video frames. Only this is full size 16mp frames at 10fps on a MFT size sensor.

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I read the words
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And I finally saw the truth
Something so profound and now it's sitting there
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Phil Contributing Member • Posts: 977
Re: Here's my first time

When shooting the milky way with a 12mm 2.0 Rokinon, I find shooting raw of course and setting the WB at about 2750.  This is not my observation, but taken from more experienced AP people.

BTW, the manual focus Samyang/Rokinon does a very good job with COMA and is a reasonably priced lens.

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Astrotripper Veteran Member • Posts: 5,606
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Max Iso wrote:

Mark9473 wrote:

Also, you have to choose how deep you want to jump into astrophotography. Particularly on the Moon, with an 80/600 or 90/500 you can just take a single image with the scope mounted on a heavy duty photo tripod. The shutter speed with these fast scopes will be fast enough to compensate for the Earth's rotation, so you wouldn't need a tracking mount.

If you want significantly better image scale, by using a barlow for example, you're quickly looking at a tracking mount and a lot more effort in image processing.

Yes this was on my mind. What if i take the frame stacking approach? If lets say im using a 100/500 with a 2x barlow (or a 100/1000mm which is F10, same thing in FOV and arc secs all things equal), at F10 i may have to bump up the ISO to get that SS fast enough to counter the rotation. Just a guess but lets say F10, ISO 1600 at 1/200 sec?

Well couldn't i stack images to just bring that noise back down?

One thing i love about using a GX7 is it's full E shutter, so there is no vibration and with E shutter it can shoot at 10fps full rez. I may have to nudge the FOV along every now and then and i will end up cropping out a bit of the edges when aligning, but wouldn't that work?

Yes. But I think Mark was hinting at the fact that your subject will quickly leave your frame. Not only that. The Moon not only changes position on the sky, it also rotates a bit. So even as you correct the framing from time to time, the first frame in the series will be rotated compared to the last frame in the series. Some stacking software can account for that effect, but even the most primitive tracking mount will make your life significantly easier. At shorter focal lengths, like the 750mm I was using, it's not as big of a deal, I guess (after all, I managed without any tracking for quite a long time). Especially if you can do 10fps e-shutter. That will allow you to gather a decent amount of material in a short period of time.

But as Mark wrote, the longer FL you use, the more pressing the need for a tracking mount.

I figure i could use as fast a SS/ISO as needed to really freeze the moon sharp and stack as needed for noise. The key IMO is the lack of vibration and fast FPS, it really opens doors for this kind of shooting, similar to how people stack video frames. Only this is full size 16mp frames at 10fps on a MFT size sensor.

Actually, stacking full res images is much more hassle than stacking from video

It would probably take less time to create a mosaic using that ETC video mode than from full res images.

But you can do it either way.

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mjc1 Regular Member • Posts: 269
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?
4

I have been dabbling in astrophotography for about 5-6 years so figured I would jump in and add a few thoughts. First I will say I would rate my skills after 5 years of efforts as "tolerable who occasionally gets a good image or two" rather than good at it.

Astrotripper gave some very good advice regarding astrophotography. I will add my own thoughts.

Legacy lenses - probably not a useful pursuit. They are just not wide enough (with the crop factor) fast enough and optically good enough. Maybe a high end, long (300mm+) lens would work for the moon, but probably costs as much or more than a small telescope. I would avoid legacy lenses for this (and I like and use a bunch of legacy lenses for other things).

Wide Field - I have only played with my mFT (EM5) a few times with this, using the 17mm and 12mm lenses. It's ok. It will never be able to compete with a FF camera in this area, just the laws of physics. The good part about this type of photography is almost anyone can do it with existing equipment. Just need a GOOD tripod, a remote shutter release and a wide/fast lens. The most important thing in the mix is a VERY DARK location, forget the suburbs or urban areas. Personally, unless you live near very dark and interesting areas, you probably will quickly get kinda bored of the efforts vs. results. Pretty much the only thing you are gonna shoot is the Milky Way. Your exposures are gonna be limited (by your lens focal length) to about 15-30 seconds without a tracking mount. Tracking and Stacking images gets difficult if you are including any foreground objects for interest.

Moon - This is the easiest target to shoot as all you need is a long lens/telescope and a good tripod. Very bright so exposure and ISO are not a problem. Good target to practice focusing with (and focusing is A LOT harder than you would imagine). Downside is that after a few phases of the moon, it may be a bit dull shooting it.

Wide field using longer focal length lenses - anything over say 35-50mm is kinda pointless unless you are using a tracking mount as you will have maybe a 10 sec. exposure, which is not much even for a fast lens.

Planets - Planets are sorta the bridge between Moon/wide field and deep space objects.  They are bright enough that exposures are short, minimizing tracking needs, but they are small, requiring larger "slower" scopes to get much detail, which is the exact opposite of deep space targets, which use small "fast" scopes.  Sensor size of a camera doesn't matter and in fact many people just use good "webcam" type cameras and sensors to take some amazing shots.  So need big scope, good webcam, computer and clear upper atmosphere.

Deep Space  - Here is where the "fun" is. I don't mean to be condescending as when I started I had little besides motivation and interest, but I do want to mention that this type of photography is going to be a black hole of time and money that I am not sure you realize. Your main question is if a mFT camera can do it well or if a larger sensor camera would do it better. The truth is the sensor size for this type photography is almost irrelevant. Some of the best astrophotography cameras in use have very small sensors. You have to realize that even with a good scope the target you are (trying) to focus on may only be a few hundred pixels in size. So if you have 5000 pixels across vs 4000 pixels, all you have added is a larger area of black space and noise around your target that you will crop out. So the camera (particularly in the learning phase of this hobby) is not the weak link and I assume that any modern mFT would not be the limiting factor in your photos. I have an astromodified Canon I use mostly, but the few times I have used the EM5 it has performed OK. More important is the telescope. Astrophotography is completely different than visual astronomy in terms of what you want in a telescope. For visual you want a big bright telescope, the bigger the better in many ways. The typical telescope used for photography would disappoint your for visual use as it typically is very small with low magnification. So, don't think you need a big 8-inch reflector, you don't for many reasons (they are slow (f-stop), heavy (heavier the scope the bigger the mount has to be) and need a higher precision of tracking (think "trying to handhold a 400mm lens without stabilization in low light"). Start with a nice used 80mm f6 refractor scope, obtainable for $2-400.  For a beginner, I would say a refractor scope is the way to start.  The most important thing for a deep space photo telescope is speed, not the actual aperture (size of glass). You want to collect as may photons in as short a time as possible as every second your telescope is tracking a target, tracking errors are mounting up till they ruin the image. Don't worry yet about field flattener and other things until you are deep into the hobby.  They help but don't "save" an image unless you have a poor optical telescope to begin with.

Than the heart of astrophotography has to be discussed. The camera and the actual telescope are important, but no where near as important as the mount. For anything other than the moon you have to have a tracking mount. For any image attempt that will not frustrate you no end you have to have a very good mount. Think $1000-$2500 used minimum good. On top of this you will need hundreds of hours of practice and experience. You will need computers, and software and dozens of "widgets" that each cost about 10x what they should. You will have to learn a new post processing technique that will frustrate you for a long time. You will actually need a second telescope and camera is you want to learn how to guide your telescope which is critical for any meaningful image taking. I don't want to discourage anyone, its a very challenging hobby and fun when it works out, but it has very little in common with other types of photography and is very expensive.

So, in summary. The moon, any decent camera with a good long telephoto lens and some practice is doable. Wide Field, most good cameras with a FAST/GOOD wide angle lens and a VERY GOOD tripod and VERY DARK skies is doable (they do sell small "tracking" devices for a few hundred dollars that may make this better).  Planets need a high magnification scope and a special webcam type camera and not as reliant upon a very expensive mount.  Anything more than that is an entirely different ballgame. Don't think as Astrophotography as a side branch of photography, think of it more as a side branch of Astronomy as that is probably more accurate. I happen to like both hobbies so the blending of both made sense. But if you don't like both, it is probably too expensive and frustrating to find much pleasure in.  If at all possible, find an astronomy club and learn/watch others, wish I had that opportunity.  Oh and buy used equipment.

Mark9473 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,908
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Max Iso wrote:

Also, you have to choose how deep you want to jump into astrophotography. Particularly on the Moon, with an 80/600 or 90/500 you can just take a single image with the scope mounted on a heavy duty photo tripod. The shutter speed with these fast scopes will be fast enough to compensate for the Earth's rotation, so you wouldn't need a tracking mount.

If you want significantly better image scale, by using a barlow for example, you're quickly looking at a tracking mount and a lot more effort in image processing.

Yes this was on my mind. What if i take the frame stacking approach? If lets say im using a 100/500 with a 2x barlow (or a 100/1000mm which is F10, same thing in FOV and arc secs all things equal), at F10 i may have to bump up the ISO to get that SS fast enough to counter the rotation. Just a guess but lets say F10, ISO 1600 at 1/200 sec?

If you follow the link above to my image, the EXIF is there. That image was 1/50 sec at ISO 100 at f/6.5. You can calculate how that exposure corresponds to your example.

Well couldn't i stack images to just bring that noise back down? One thing i love about using a GX7 is it's full E shutter, so there is no vibration and with E shutter it can shoot at 10fps full rez. I may have to nudge the FOV along every now and then and i will end up cropping out a bit of the edges when aligning, but wouldn't that work?

It would work, yes. You could do a test series comparing noise versus iso versus number of frames stacked.

I figure i could use as fast a SS/ISO as needed to really freeze the moon sharp and stack as needed for noise. The key IMO is the lack of vibration and fast FPS, it really opens doors for this kind of shooting, similar to how people stack video frames. Only this is full size 16mp frames at 10fps on a MFT size sensor.

One important difference is that people doing video stacking shoot thousands of frames and the stacking software then automatically selects the steadiest few hundred frames. Your process will be more tedious but less efficient.

I think you should look a bit deeper into your camera's video resolution and video crop factor, then figure out what's the most efficient route to the image you want. No point in using 16 mp for example if the Moon only covers the central 20% of your frame. Time to spend some time with a pocket calculator and figure things out in detail, I'd say.

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Mark

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mjc1 Regular Member • Posts: 269
Re: Anybody using MFT bodies for astrophotography?

Honestly, the moon is so bright you can easily shoot low ISO and noise isn't really a problem. I have never tried to stack moon images, never really seen the need. Stacking works best for very faint images where your tracking accuracy is insufficient to get enough photons in one shot before tracking errors mess up the image. Stacking is also good when shooting planets with a webcam type setup as software can pick and choose the best few dozen shots out of thousands, can combine them into a single very good shot. Planetary rotation can factor into this, but typically not a big issue. Again, not something needed with the moon, it's plenty big and bright to just shoot at low ISO and don't have to worry about tracking or stacking.  Just getting your focus correct is more than enough to worry about in the beginning!

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