Big White for astro photography?

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joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Big White for astro photography?
1

I am considering to get an RF 400 f/2.8. Besides wildlife I am wondering how well it would perform for astro imaging? (coma?)

I do astro and have some refractor scopes but none as fast as f/2.8. Especially in summer with shorter nights a fast lens like that would be a great advantage. It appears an attractive choice as dual-use lens for astro and wild life.

Does anyone use a Big White (preferably f/2.8 or f/4.0)  for astro imaging and could share some experience?

Thanks.

joe

Sittatunga Veteran Member • Posts: 3,511
Re: Big White for astro photography?
1

joenj wrote:

I am considering to get an RF 400 f/2.8. Besides wildlife I am wondering how well it would perform for astro imaging? (coma?)

I do astro and have some refractor scopes but none as fast as f/2.8. Especially in summer with shorter nights a fast lens like that would be a great advantage. It appears an attractive choice as dual-use lens for astro and wild life.

Does anyone use a Big White (preferably f/2.8 or f/4.0) for astro imaging and could share some experience?

Thanks.

joe

R N Clark does and can. There's quite a long read here; https://clarkvision.com/articles/astrophotography-recommended-gear/

Try the Astrophotography talk forum too.

Mark Urwiller
Mark Urwiller Regular Member • Posts: 176
Re: Big White for astro photography?
2

I took this photo with my EF 500mm f4 V1 attached to a modified EOS T3i. It's a single 5 minute exposure at 1600 ISO under a Bortle 1 sky at the Nebraska Star Party. Believe me there are much better photos using big whites out there.

I still have the T3i and now the R5 and just purchased a used EF 500mm f4 V2.  I'm headed to the Nebraska Star Party again next month and will use the big white again!  I will this time shoot more (shorter) exposures and shoot darks, bias, and flats to reduce noise.

http://www.markurwiller.photography/piwigo/galleries/SkyPhenomena/_MG_2619csrgbsm.jpg

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OP joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Re: Big White for astro photography?

Sittatunga wrote:

joenj wrote:

I am considering to get an RF 400 f/2.8. Besides wildlife I am wondering how well it would perform for astro imaging? (coma?)

I do astro and have some refractor scopes but none as fast as f/2.8. Especially in summer with shorter nights a fast lens like that would be a great advantage. It appears an attractive choice as dual-use lens for astro and wild life.

Does anyone use a Big White (preferably f/2.8 or f/4.0) for astro imaging and could share some experience?

Thanks.

joe

R N Clark does and can. There's quite a long read here; https://clarkvision.com/articles/astrophotography-recommended-gear/

Try the Astrophotography talk forum too.

Thanks for the link. Lots of lenses evalued there for astro photogrsphy.

OP joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Re: Big White for astro photography?

Mark Urwiller wrote:

I took this photo with my EF 500mm f4 V1 attached to a modified EOS T3i. It's a single 5 minute exposure at 1600 ISO under a Bortle 1 sky at the Nebraska Star Party. Believe me there are much better photos using big whites out there.

I still have the T3i and now the R5 and just purchased a used EF 500mm f4 V2. I'm headed to the Nebraska Star Party again next month and will use the big white again! I will this time shoot more (shorter) exposures and shoot darks, bias, and flats to reduce noise.

http://www.markurwiller.photography/piwigo/galleries/SkyPhenomena/_MG_2619csrgbsm.jpg

A great image with uourEf 500!

Hard to believe it is only one exposure. But that is the advantage of a fast lense like yours. In astro, 1 stop slower i.e. 5.6 is already considered fast.

BTW, I am using a modified EOS R and have so far done some wide field MilkyWay with Canon lenses. Your experience motivates to also use Big White lenses. Thanks for sharing and enjoy the star party.

robgendreau Veteran Member • Posts: 8,925
Re: Big White for astro photography?
2

I think you should do a 300mm version of the Dragonfly: https://www.dpreview.com/news/6196210055/this-array-of-canon-400mm-lenses-helped-astronomers-discover-new-galaxies

But yeah, sounds like it would work.

Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,907
Re: Big White for astro photography?
1

You'll need a good tracking mount to use a 400mm lens. It will be easy with a proper german equatorial mount but it won't be easy with the usual lightweight nightscape trackers.

You could take say 100 x 10 second images and stack them in Deep Sky Stacker.

Even 10 seconds will show elongated stars without tracking.

Consider that in your decision making. You are imaging a moving object and they move faster than they appear just looking at the night sky.

You'd be better off costwise and performance wise with a small APO telescope which are around $1000 these days.

Greg.

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OP joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Re: Big White for astro photography?

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

You'll need a good tracking mount to use a 400mm lens. It will be easy with a proper german equatorial mount but it won't be easy with the usual lightweight nightscape trackers.

You could take say 100 x 10 second images and stack them in Deep Sky Stacker.

Even 10 seconds will show elongated stars without tracking.

Consider that in your decision making. You are imaging a moving object and they move faster than they appear just looking at the night sky.

You'd be better off costwise and performance wise with a small APO telescope which are around $1000 these days.

Greg.

Thanks.

I do have an HEQ5-Pro mount for my refractors. The payload is at least 20lbs. So, i should be fine.

I agree that cost-wise an RF 400 f/2.8 would make little sense if only used for astro imaging. But i intend a dual-use i.e. for wildlife and for astro.

OP joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Re: Big White for astro photography?
  • robgendreau wrote:

I think you should do a 300mm version of the Dragonfly: https://www.dpreview.com/news/6196210055/this-array-of-canon-400mm-lenses-helped-astronomers-discover-new-galaxies

But yeah, sounds like it would work.

I hadn't seen that. Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

Marco Nero
Marco Nero Veteran Member • Posts: 7,251
Re: Big White for astro photography?
2

joenj wrote:

I am considering to get an RF 400 f/2.8. Besides wildlife I am wondering how well it would perform for astro imaging? (coma?)

.
RF lenses are supposed to have reduced incidences of Coma - although you wouldn't know it if you've used the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM lens (which can generate Coma right across the frame, not just at the edges or corners).  But without owning one of the new RF Whites in the 400/600mm range, I would expect superb results from either.  In addition, Coma is usually attributed to the curvature of lenses with a wider FOV.
.
It should produce good results although shooting with wide aperture lenses can prove to be counterproductive in some instances - where the core region is overly bright (like Orion) or where light pollution can cause the scene to wash out.  F/2.8 is probably in a reasonably good spot if you can access some rural skies or darker.  I've seen some great shots taken with the EF lens on the original EOS R camera of the Andromeda Galaxy.  Yet stopping down the lens to reduce the spread of stars and to reduce coma is almost essential with most lenses.  This is why they make field-flatteners for telescopes where Astrophotography is involved.
.

Not a Big White - I've only just started using the EF 100-400mmL lens with a polar-aligned Celestron CGX mount - and need to iron out the bugs with tracking before I can get long enough exposures.  Not into Autoguiding yet.  Up until now I've just been using this lens with a regular Manfrotto tripod.

.

I do astro and have some refractor scopes but none as fast as f/2.8. Especially in summer with shorter nights a fast lens like that would be a great advantage. It appears an attractive choice as dual-use lens for astro and wild life.

It's attractive from this perspective since you could use one lens for both.  But for a heck of a lot less, you could purchase a Williams Optics astrophotography telescope with much sharper optics and get superior results compared to using the Canon big-white lenses.  Other alternatives include literal 'Astrograph' telescopes like those from Celestron that offer apertures in the f/2 range, delivering faster results... although I find those better for clear sky (Dark Sky) locations.

Does anyone use a Big White (preferably f/2.8 or f/4.0) for astro imaging and could share some experience?

With longer focal lengths, having a bright aperture is useful to cut down significantly on exposure time. F/2.8 is about ideal for some subjects and f/4 is still bright enough that it's faster than most telescopes out there with similar focal lengths.  Stopping down the aperture will result in sharper pinpoint stars and even diffraction spikes but this increase in sharpness costs you light... which is why most telescopes tend to have much narrower apertures (though this is often the result of the focal length and physical designs).  With focal lengths of 400mm you can frame things like Andromeda or Orion.  You may need to crop your images if shooting with Full Frame but they sit comfortably within the FOV. For planetary observation/photography (eg Jupiter or Saturn) you really do need more magnification.  800mm is still too short for the sort of detail you might want to be seeing more clearly.  2,300mm (and up) would be better suited to those types of targets.  An inexpensive Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope would be better suited to those types of targets because of the delivered focal length and narrower apertures they offer.

.

Stills from a YouTube video demonstrating the capture of Andromeda with an EF 400mm f/2.8L lens - note however, that the photographer was testing the limited edition release of the Canon EOS Ra astro-modified camera - which has recently been discontinued.  
*An EQ mount for tracking also appears to be in use.

.

Anything approaching 300mm is perhaps no longer in the realm of 'wide-field' photography (but I think 250mm is still considered wide-field).  So looking at a 400mm lens, you'll find that either it isn't long enough to get in tight on many celestial subjects with a Full Frame sensor, or it's still just too narrow for true wide-field astro.  You could use an Extender though it will impact your aperture.  Some new lenses such as the RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens (which I am fond of using for Astro) virtually eliminate Coma and reduce Chromatic Aberration almost completely, it's still going to be an issue with many other lenses.   If you select your lenses carefully, you can certainly pick out some that will act as a substitute for a telescope.  Although the price of some of these higher Big-White lenses would more than cover the price of a higher end telescope that would be far better suited to Astrophotography.  For the best results you'll need an EQ Mount with tracking plus you would benefit from a narrower aperture (over a wide one) with deep space subjects.  Stacking and Tracking would be the order of the day and when those aspects are considered, a telescope might be the best choice.
.
However, if you simply want to have a good lens with AF that can also be used for astrophotography,  yes, they'll work.  They'd actually give you a fairly decent result in lieu of a telescope if you don't feel a need for more magnification.  One of the strongest influential reasons why I bought the Canon EF 100-400mmL II lens is because I could use it for Astrophotography and I'm glad that I did because it's enabled me to make better decisions for future telescope purchases and commitments.  Some of the wider aperture White lenses will be more expensive but they'll do a similar job.  One last thing to consider is whether you want to buy an Astro-modified camera or have an existing one modified to pick up better with the faint nebulous material often associated with Deep Space subject matter.  You don't need to do this at all... but there's a noticeable difference between standard and modified camera sensors.  Good old Roger Clarke feels you don't need a modded sensor to pick up on the fainter colors of deep space nebulae and his argument for this is compelling.
.
If you feel you have use for one of those rather expensive Big White lenses and the price doesn't deter you, then yes... I think it would make a fine dual use lens for both terrestrial and astro uses.  With a 1.4x Extender the 400mm f/2.8L lens would bump up to around f/4 at 560mm.  So that lens would seem to be the most useful.

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Regards,
Marco Nero.

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OP joenj Contributing Member • Posts: 903
Re: Big White for astro photography?

Marco Nero wrote:

joenj wrote:

I am considering to get an RF 400 f/2.8. Besides wildlife I am wondering how well it would perform for astro imaging? (coma?)

.
RF lenses are supposed to have reduced incidences of Coma - although you wouldn't know it if you've used the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM lens (which can generate Coma right across the frame, not just at the edges or corners). But without owning one of the new RF Whites in the 400/600mm range, I would expect superb results from either. In addition, Coma is usually attributed to the curvature of lenses with a wider FOV.
.
It should produce good results although shooting with wide aperture lenses can prove to be counterproductive in some instances - where the core region is overly bright (like Orion) or where light pollution can cause the scene to wash out. F/2.8 is probably in a reasonably good spot if you can access some rural skies or darker. I've seen some great shots taken with the EF lens on the original EOS R camera of the Andromeda Galaxy. Yet stopping down the lens to reduce the spread of stars and to reduce coma is almost essential with most lenses. This is why they make field-flatteners for telescopes where Astrophotography is involved.
.

Not a Big White - I've only just started using the EF 100-400mmL lens with a polar-aligned Celestron CGX mount - and need to iron out the bugs with tracking before I can get long enough exposures. Not into Autoguiding yet. Up until now I've just been using this lens with a regular Manfrotto tripod.

.

I do astro and have some refractor scopes but none as fast as f/2.8. Especially in summer with shorter nights a fast lens like that would be a great advantage. It appears an attractive choice as dual-use lens for astro and wild life.

It's attractive from this perspective since you could use one lens for both. But for a heck of a lot less, you could purchase a Williams Optics astrophotography telescope with much sharper optics and get superior results compared to using the Canon big-white lenses. Other alternatives include literal 'Astrograph' telescopes like those from Celestron that offer apertures in the f/2 range, delivering faster results... although I find those better for clear sky (Dark Sky) locations.

Does anyone use a Big White (preferably f/2.8 or f/4.0) for astro imaging and could share some experience?

With longer focal lengths, having a bright aperture is useful to cut down significantly on exposure time. F/2.8 is about ideal for some subjects and f/4 is still bright enough that it's faster than most telescopes out there with similar focal lengths. Stopping down the aperture will result in sharper pinpoint stars and even diffraction spikes but this increase in sharpness costs you light... which is why most telescopes tend to have much narrower apertures (though this is often the result of the focal length and physical designs). With focal lengths of 400mm you can frame things like Andromeda or Orion. You may need to crop your images if shooting with Full Frame but they sit comfortably within the FOV. For planetary observation/photography (eg Jupiter or Saturn) you really do need more magnification. 800mm is still too short for the sort of detail you might want to be seeing more clearly. 2,300mm (and up) would be better suited to those types of targets. An inexpensive Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope would be better suited to those types of targets because of the delivered focal length and narrower apertures they offer.

.

Stills from a YouTube video demonstrating the capture of Andromeda with an EF 400mm f/2.8L lens - note however, that the photographer was testing the limited edition release of the Canon EOS Ra astro-modified camera - which has recently been discontinued. *An EQ mount for tracking also appears to be in use.

.

Anything approaching 300mm is perhaps no longer in the realm of 'wide-field' photography (but I think 250mm is still considered wide-field). So looking at a 400mm lens, you'll find that either it isn't long enough to get in tight on many celestial subjects with a Full Frame sensor, or it's still just too narrow for true wide-field astro. You could use an Extender though it will impact your aperture. Some new lenses such as the RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens (which I am fond of using for Astro) virtually eliminate Coma and reduce Chromatic Aberration almost completely, it's still going to be an issue with many other lenses. If you select your lenses carefully, you can certainly pick out some that will act as a substitute for a telescope. Although the price of some of these higher Big-White lenses would more than cover the price of a higher end telescope that would be far better suited to Astrophotography. For the best results you'll need an EQ Mount with tracking plus you would benefit from a narrower aperture (over a wide one) with deep space subjects. Stacking and Tracking would be the order of the day and when those aspects are considered, a telescope might be the best choice.
.
However, if you simply want to have a good lens with AF that can also be used for astrophotography, yes, they'll work. They'd actually give you a fairly decent result in lieu of a telescope if you don't feel a need for more magnification. One of the strongest influential reasons why I bought the Canon EF 100-400mmL II lens is because I could use it for Astrophotography and I'm glad that I did because it's enabled me to make better decisions for future telescope purchases and commitments. Some of the wider aperture White lenses will be more expensive but they'll do a similar job. One last thing to consider is whether you want to buy an Astro-modified camera or have an existing one modified to pick up better with the faint nebulous material often associated with Deep Space subject matter. You don't need to do this at all... but there's a noticeable difference between standard and modified camera sensors. Good old Roger Clarke feels you don't need a modded sensor to pick up on the fainter colors of deep space nebulae and his argument for this is compelling.
.
If you feel you have use for one of those rather expensive Big White lenses and the price doesn't deter you, then yes... I think it would make a fine dual use lens for both terrestrial and astro uses. With a 1.4x Extender the 400mm f/2.8L lens would bump up to around f/4 at 560mm. So that lens would seem to be the most useful.

Thanks Marco, lots of helpful information.

A few comments:

- coma: yes that is more an issue of wide lenses. However, in astro photography it ispronlematicif stars are notround. So the slightest sign of coma would be a problem. But cropping might help here. After all, the field is widewith a FF sensor.

- "But for a heck of a lot less, you could purchase a Williams Optics astrophotography telescope with much sharper optics and get superior results compared to using the Canon big-white"

Sure, but dual use appears attractive to me. And when traveling it is more convenient to carry one lens that can do both rather than carrying a canon lens and a telescope.

- focal length: 400mm is certainly not a lot. But with the 2x extender it is an 800 f/5.6 and a lot of DSO targets are possible. Itis certainlynot enough for galxies (except M31, M33).

- astro modified camera: I had my EOS R modified. Before it vould not pick up Ha well.

Again  thanks for all the info and photos.

Terry Danks Regular Member • Posts: 206
Re: Big White for astro photography?

I have used several Canon lenses for AP. Including the EF600 f/4.0L IS and the EF300 f/2.8L IS.

In my case I was happy with the star shapes of the 300 but the 600 just was not satisfactory.

In the end, I dove deeper into AP and gave up on the lenses and went to APO refractors and an iDK reflector.

One real hassle with the lenses was getting them to focus with computer software. Sure, it can be done . . . with heroic measures.

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