RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Started Mar 22, 2018 | Discussions
JayRayMe
JayRayMe Regular Member • Posts: 228
RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Hi,
Since I always find good advice here, I'll ask for some more if you don't mind: how about shooting the stars with a RX10 III or IV (I guess there shouldn't be much difference)? Any tips from your experience?
I didn't quite find a thread with a thorough answer and live in a city so can't test for myself until I go away.
Here's what I gathered so far, don't hesitate to correct me:
- 1) focal length: wide 24mm
- 2) aperture: full open so 2.8
- 3) shutter speed: ? from what I read, around 20-25s is the sweet spot but I think I recall that I did some tests a long time ago and above 10 seconds you could already see some trails. And since it's not a big sensor, can't go super high in ISOs...
- 4) ISO: what's your experience? 800, 1600, more? Not sure where would the upper limit be with a 1" sensor and a mostly uniformly black picture.
- 5) Long exposure Noise Reduction: I've read opposite views about this, some say "definitely turn it on", some don't (if you shoot RAW is that it?). But what if I don't have a noise reduction software? for example is the one integrated in Capture One good enough?
- 6) High ISO noise reduction: the obvious answer would be yes, don't you think?
- 7) focus: some say infinity, most say "go manual, should be a bit less than infinity" so I guess DMF or MF. Would the mk4 touch screen focus capability be helpful there?
- 8) white balance: I shoot raw so NBD but might as well get it right from the start. Is Auto performing well in those cases?

Plus the obvious ones but I guess I can answer those:
- tripod (duh)
- steadyshot: off since tripod
- remote or 2s delay

Bonus question: star trails. Can it be done in a single shot with a ND filter + super long exposure? Won't the sensor heat up?

 JayRayMe's gear list:JayRayMe's gear list
Sony RX10 IV Sony a7 III Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 50mm F1.8 +3 more
Sony RX10 III Sony RX10 IV
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sludge21017
sludge21017 Senior Member • Posts: 2,019
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips
bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips
4

JayRayMe wrote:

Hi,
Since I always find good advice here, I'll ask for some more if you don't mind: how about shooting the stars with a RX10 III or IV (I guess there shouldn't be much difference)? Any tips from your experience?
I didn't quite find a thread with a thorough answer and live in a city so can't test for myself until I go away.

You've asked a books worth of questions. My very short notes below

Here's what I gathered so far, don't hesitate to correct me:
- 1) focal length: wide 24mm

Anything from 24-600mm depending upon the mount. If using a tripod, use the 500 Rule to determine exposure at whatever focal length(FL); i.e.: Exp(sec) = 500/FL. If you're using a tracking mount you can pretty much use any focal length depending upon the target.

- 2) aperture: full open so 2.8

Works for me and the Zeiss lens will take it.

- 3) shutter speed: ? from what I read, around 20-25s is the sweet spot but I think I recall that I did some tests a long time ago and above 10 seconds you could already see some trails. And since it's not a big sensor, can't go super high in ISOs...

See #1. I've shot astrophotography with everything from 5 sec. to 3 minutes with the RX10 III.

- 4) ISO: what's your experience? 800, 1600, more? Not sure where would the upper limit be with a 1" sensor and a mostly uniformly black picture.

Normal practice in astrophotography is to shoot multiple subs then align and stack them to get a final image. Since the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the final image improves as the Sq.Rt. of the number of subs, shoot lots of subs, i.e.: 49 subs give a 7x improvement in SNR. I've shot astrophotography at ISO400 thru 3200 with good results.

- 5) Long exposure Noise Reduction: I've read opposite views about this, some say "definitely turn it on", some don't (if you shoot RAW is that it?). But what if I don't have a noise reduction software? for example is the one integrated in Capture One good enough?

Off. Do all noise reduction in postprocessing. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop.

- 6) High ISO noise reduction: the obvious answer would be yes, don't you think?

Off. Do all noise reduction in postprocessing. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop. Objects in astrophotography, i.e.: stars, can be very small and can easily be interpreted as noise.

- 7) focus: some say infinity, most say "go manual, should be a bit less than infinity" so I guess DMF or MF. Would the mk4 touch screen focus capability be helpful there?

The Infinity setting in nonsense. Do an autofocus on the Moon then lock focus or pick the brightest star you can see and do an autofocus on it then lock focus. Otherwise set MF with Peaking on and focus until you see the most Peaked stars in the viewfinder or on the liveview screen. I use a Bahtinov mask for exacting focus but you can come close visually.

- 8) white balance: I shoot raw so NBD but might as well get it right from the start. Is Auto performing well in those cases?

Daylight white balance. Auto can give a different white balance in every sub which is hard to fix.

Plus the obvious ones but I guess I can answer those:
- tripod (duh)

Or tracking mount

- steadyshot: off since tripod

Doesn't make any difference, on or off

- remote or 2s delay

Both work but I prefer a wired remote for shots beyond 30 sec.

Bonus question: star trails. Can it be done in a single shot with a ND filter + super long exposure? Won't the sensor heat up?

Simply shoot multiple, say 20 sec. subs @ ISO 1600 off a tripod and stack them using any of the freebie star trails software off the web, image attached (about 90 min. of short subs).

If the sensor doesn't go up in flames shooting 30 min. videos it ain't going to heat up much shooting long subs which you don't need anyway for star trails.

I use a full spectrum modified RX10 III for astrophotography & IR and a stock RX10 IV for nightscape and general photography. Both work great!

Clear skies

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 bwana4swahili's gear list:bwana4swahili's gear list
Sony Mavica CD400 Olympus Tough TG-2 Sony RX10 IV Canon EOS 400D Sony a7S +87 more
JayRayMe
OP JayRayMe Regular Member • Posts: 228
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Thank you!

Yes, I realize now I was pretty much asking an astrophotography course in 10 lines, sorry! But I'm sure your notes will be useful too many people willing to try it out with the RX10.
You star trails photo looks awesome BTW

 JayRayMe's gear list:JayRayMe's gear list
Sony RX10 IV Sony a7 III Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 50mm F1.8 +3 more
bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips
2

A couple more images off the stock RX10 III:

Multiple sub image: Pleiades to right, Orion right of center, yellow smear is trees, dust lanes, nebulosity

Multiple sub image: Centered on Orion constellation. Thin clouds and fog floating through.

JayRayMe wrote:

Thank you!

Yes, I realize now I was pretty much asking an astrophotography course in 10 lines, sorry! But I'm sure your notes will be useful too many people willing to try it out with the RX10.
You star trails photo looks awesome BTW

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tsk1979 Senior Member • Posts: 1,182
Wow!

I tried Astro with RX10III and Manual focus seems very challenging to do.

Can you let on more about how do you do that?

I am planning to get my A7SII modded as Full spectrum, and use RX10III for normal Astro stuff.

Any tips, recommendation and links to your work please

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bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: Wow!
1

tsk1979 wrote:

I tried Astro with RX10III and Manual focus seems very challenging to do.

Can you let on more about how do you do that?

I am planning to get my A7SII modded as Full spectrum, and use RX10III for normal Astro stuff.

Any tips, recommendation and links to your work please

As for focus using the III or IV, if the Moon is at all visible I do an autofocus on it then lock focus. Otherwise I up the ISO to 6400+ and do an autofocus on the brightest star in the sky then lock the focus. Either of these normally work reasonably well. If neither of these work, I simply manual focus until the stars on LiveView are the smallest and Peaking shows the most stars. This is normally very close to the best focus you're going to get.

Before you get your A7S II modded to Full Spectrum please be aware of the following, per LifePixel's website:

"Note: The Sony A7S II, A7R II, A7R III, and A9 use an IR LED as part of their electronic shutter monitor. Once these models are converted to Full Spectrum, the internal IR LED will contaminate all images shot at exposures greater than 1 second." It is also a problem with the A7 III but apparently not as severe (I don't know why this would be the case? Might be the definition of "severe"!?).

My goto mirrorless camera for astro-imaging is a full spectrum A7S. My camera for normal astro and nighyscape photography is a stock A7R II. I also use four astrophotography cameras; a mono QHY 163M, a color ATIK Horizon, an ATIK mono 428EX and a mono ATIK Infinity. I use a color QHY 183C and mono Point Grey Chameleon for solar / lunar imaging.  I like the QHY astro-imaging cameras the best.

Clear skies!

bwa

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Sony Mavica CD400 Olympus Tough TG-2 Sony RX10 IV Canon EOS 400D Sony a7S +87 more
tsk1979 Senior Member • Posts: 1,182
Re: Wow!

If the camera turns off (i.e. lens retracks while viewing the screen images, it just loses the AF setting. Any way to really "Lock" it?

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Tanveer
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 tsk1979's gear list:tsk1979's gear list
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bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: Wow!

tsk1979 wrote:

If the camera turns off (i.e. lens retracks while viewing the screen images, it just loses the AF setting. Any way to really "Lock" it?

Why would this occur other than the battery going dead?  And no, I don't know of a way to physically 'lock' focus.

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tsk1979 Senior Member • Posts: 1,182
Re: Wow!

I think I will try to figure out how to kill the power save mode

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 tsk1979's gear list:tsk1979's gear list
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bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: Wow!

tsk1979 wrote:

I think I will try to figure out how to kill the power save mode

Just turn it off or set it for some large value.

bwa

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Jack Sr Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

star trails

tbcass
tbcass Forum Pro • Posts: 45,079
A little post processing;

Made a major improvement IMO. I darkened the shadows and increased the contrast.

I this one I just upped the contrast.

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Tom

 tbcass's gear list:tbcass's gear list
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tbcass
tbcass Forum Pro • Posts: 45,079
Re: Wow!

bwana4swahili wrote:

tsk1979 wrote:

If the camera turns off (i.e. lens retracks while viewing the screen images, it just loses the AF setting. Any way to really "Lock" it?

Why would this occur other than the battery going dead? And no, I don't know of a way to physically 'lock' focus.

Turn off power save mode and it will stay on till the battery goes dead.

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Tom

 tbcass's gear list:tbcass's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony RX10 IV Sony a99 II Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di USD +7 more
Harris McMann New Member • Posts: 15
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Your pictures are great.  Could you tell me what settings you used in your Sony Mark 10 llI/lV to photograph the Milky Way?

Thank you in advance.

bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Harris McMann wrote:

Your pictures are great. Could you tell me what settings you used in your Sony Mark 10 llI/lV to photograph the Milky Way?

Thank you in advance.

Depends on the mount and focal length chosen.

If you're shooting off a tripod, keep the exposure under ~500/focal length, i.e.: 10 sec. for a 50mm focal length. I normally shoot with an ISO of 800-3200 depending upon the exposure. Shoot a few test shots to get the best combo.

If you're shooting off a tracking mount, keep the ISO as low as possible and shoot longer subs.

Single images of the Milky Way at long exposures and high ISO's are going to be noisy. Shoot lots of subs, and align and stack them to reduce the noise. The in-camera Multi-Frame Noise Reduction, which shoots four subs and stacks them, is a good start; however, if you really want low noise astrophotography results I would suggest 40-50 subs as a reasonable number.  Signal-to-noise ratio improves as the sq.rt. of the number of subs, i.e.: in-camera gives a 2x improvement, 49 subs gives a 7x improvement.

I normally shoot the Milky Way with a focal range of 24-35mm and do panoramas to get an horizon to horizon result.

Experimentation is the easiest way to find the best combo of settings.  Shooting digital images is a pretty low cost undertaking...

Clear skies!

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Harris McMann New Member • Posts: 15
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Thank you.  We will try this out tonight!

bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

Harris McMann wrote:

Thank you. We will try this out tonight!

Good luck and have fun!

bwa

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 bwana4swahili's gear list:bwana4swahili's gear list
Sony Mavica CD400 Olympus Tough TG-2 Sony RX10 IV Canon EOS 400D Sony a7S +87 more
caseyjay New Member • Posts: 8
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

bwana4swahili wrote:

JayRayMe wrote:

Hi,
Since I always find good advice here, I'll ask for some more if you don't mind: how about shooting the stars with a RX10 III or IV (I guess there shouldn't be much difference)? Any tips from your experience?
I didn't quite find a thread with a thorough answer and live in a city so can't test for myself until I go away.

You've asked a books worth of questions. My very short notes below

Here's what I gathered so far, don't hesitate to correct me:
- 1) focal length: wide 24mm

Anything from 24-600mm depending upon the mount. If using a tripod, use the 500 Rule to determine exposure at whatever focal length(FL); i.e.: Exp(sec) = 500/FL. If you're using a tracking mount you can pretty much use any focal length depending upon the target.

- 2) aperture: full open so 2.8

Works for me and the Zeiss lens will take it.

- 3) shutter speed: ? from what I read, around 20-25s is the sweet spot but I think I recall that I did some tests a long time ago and above 10 seconds you could already see some trails. And since it's not a big sensor, can't go super high in ISOs...

See #1. I've shot astrophotography with everything from 5 sec. to 3 minutes with the RX10 III.

- 4) ISO: what's your experience? 800, 1600, more? Not sure where would the upper limit be with a 1" sensor and a mostly uniformly black picture.

Normal practice in astrophotography is to shoot multiple subs then align and stack them to get a final image. Since the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the final image improves as the Sq.Rt. of the number of subs, shoot lots of subs, i.e.: 49 subs give a 7x improvement in SNR. I've shot astrophotography at ISO400 thru 3200 with good results.

- 5) Long exposure Noise Reduction: I've read opposite views about this, some say "definitely turn it on", some don't (if you shoot RAW is that it?). But what if I don't have a noise reduction software? for example is the one integrated in Capture One good enough?

Off. Do all noise reduction in postprocessing. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop.

- 6) High ISO noise reduction: the obvious answer would be yes, don't you think?

Off. Do all noise reduction in postprocessing. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop. Objects in astrophotography, i.e.: stars, can be very small and can easily be interpreted as noise.

- 7) focus: some say infinity, most say "go manual, should be a bit less than infinity" so I guess DMF or MF. Would the mk4 touch screen focus capability be helpful there?

The Infinity setting in nonsense. Do an autofocus on the Moon then lock focus or pick the brightest star you can see and do an autofocus on it then lock focus. Otherwise set MF with Peaking on and focus until you see the most Peaked stars in the viewfinder or on the liveview screen. I use a Bahtinov mask for exacting focus but you can come close visually.

- 8) white balance: I shoot raw so NBD but might as well get it right from the start. Is Auto performing well in those cases?

Daylight white balance. Auto can give a different white balance in every sub which is hard to fix.

Plus the obvious ones but I guess I can answer those:
- tripod (duh)

Or tracking mount

- steadyshot: off since tripod

Doesn't make any difference, on or off

- remote or 2s delay

Both work but I prefer a wired remote for shots beyond 30 sec.

Bonus question: star trails. Can it be done in a single shot with a ND filter + super long exposure? Won't the sensor heat up?

Simply shoot multiple, say 20 sec. subs @ ISO 1600 off a tripod and stack them using any of the freebie star trails software off the web, image attached (about 90 min. of short subs).

If the sensor doesn't go up in flames shooting 30 min. videos it ain't going to heat up much shooting long subs which you don't need anyway for star trails.

I use a full spectrum modified RX10 III for astrophotography & IR and a stock RX10 IV for nightscape and general photography. Both work great!

Clear skies

I was re-reading this thread after having problems getting accurate focus on stars with no moon on my Sony RX10iv. Here I noticed bwana4swahili mentioned that you use a Bahtinov mask for your star focusing. I had read (lonely speck) that this would not work well with the RX10 iv. Is the performance good enough to achieve sharp stars?

bwana4swahili
bwana4swahili Contributing Member • Posts: 801
Re: RX10 III/IV night photography tips

caseyjay wrote:

bwana4swahili wrote:

- 7) focus: some say infinity, most say "go manual, should be a bit less than infinity" so I guess DMF or MF. Would the mk4 touch screen focus capability be helpful there?

The Infinity setting in nonsense. Do an autofocus on the Moon then lock focus or pick the brightest star you can see and do an autofocus on it then lock focus. Otherwise set MF with Peaking on and focus until you see the most Peaked stars in the viewfinder or on the liveview screen. I use a Bahtinov mask for exacting focus but you can come close visually.

I was re-reading this thread after having problems getting accurate focus on stars with no moon on my Sony RX10iv. Here I noticed bwana4swahili mentioned that you use a Bahtinov mask for your star focusing. I had read (lonely speck) that this would not work well with the RX10 iv. Is the performance good enough to achieve sharp stars?

The Bahtinov Mask I use is specially designed for camera lenses; the StarSharp2 by Lonely Speck (https://www.lonelyspeck.com/sharpstar/).  Works very well to get a sharp focus.

  • up the ISO so you can easily see a few bright stars
  • center a bright star
  • adjust focus until the middle spike is evenly centered between the 'X' (outer) spikes (the 'fly-by-wire' focusing on the RX10 III & IV makes focus adjustment a bit more difficult than simply using a manual focuser, but doable)
  • voila, close to perfect focus.
  • remember to reduce the ISO to the imaging value
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Sony Mavica CD400 Olympus Tough TG-2 Sony RX10 IV Canon EOS 400D Sony a7S +87 more
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