First Time Settings Question...

Started 5 months ago | Discussions
John Retsal Regular Member • Posts: 259
First Time Settings Question...

I'm going to try my hand at some wide-field Milky Way photography.

Camera is Nikon Z6II with the Z 14-30 f/4 lens.

Location has Bortle 2 skies (for those who know what that means), so pretty dark.

I'd be shooting at 14mm and maybe 20mm, wide open at f/4 tripod mounted, no tracking and VR off.

I'm pretty sure I need to keep my exposure times (per the NPF rule) to around 11 sec for 14mm and 8 sec for 20mm in order to have no trailing visible.

What I'm unsure about are other settings such as ISO (taking into consideration the camera's ISO Invariance) and white balance.

And a  bonus question, is there any advantage in shooting in b/w in terms of the quality of the images?

Thanks all!

Vincent DP
Vincent DP Regular Member • Posts: 336
Re: First Time Settings Question...
1

Hello John,

That zoom lens is not ideal.

Ultra wide makes it easy, not better, to shoot astro. An ultrawide lens has a small physical aperture and cannot gather a lot of photons. Your f/4 is also not very fast.

You would have *much* better results with a longer prime lens at f/2 - f/2.8. A 35mm would be excellent, a 50mm even better - but of course you would have to stitch multiple shots into a panorama.

If you want to use your 14-30 f/4 lens - I would use 24mm, 12 second exposures. At 14mm, you can expose for ~20 seconds without visible trailing.

The Z6ii is ISO invariant, so use ISO 800 and boost the exposure in post - this will prevent burning the bright stars. Most stars are not white, their color goes from orange to blue. You should certainly not use high ISO, as some people recommend - it would only clip the highlights quicker!

White balance - use daylight and adjust in post for natural color (brown - orange Milky Way). The night sky and the MW are not blue or purple.

Next steps - read about stacking multiple exposures and stretching.

I recommend Roger Clark's astrophotography articles: https://clarkvision.com/articles/index.html

 Vincent DP's gear list:Vincent DP's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Sony a7 II Sony a7 III Olympus E-M5 III +11 more
OP John Retsal Regular Member • Posts: 259
Re: First Time Settings Question...

Vincent DP wrote:

Hello John,

That zoom lens is not ideal.

Ultra wide makes it easy, not better, to shoot astro. An ultrawide lens has a small physical aperture and cannot gather a lot of photons. Your f/4 is also not very fast.

You would have *much* better results with a longer prime lens at f/2 - f/2.8. A 35mm would be excellent, a 50mm even better - but of course you would have to stitch multiple shots into a panorama.

If you want to use your 14-30 f/4 lens - I would use 24mm, 12 second exposures. At 14mm, you can expose for ~20 seconds without visible trailing.

The Z6ii is ISO invariant, so use ISO 800 and boost the exposure in post - this will prevent burning the bright stars. Most stars are not white, their color goes from orange to blue. You should certainly not use high ISO, as some people recommend - it would only clip the highlights quicker!

White balance - use daylight and adjust in post for natural color (brown - orange Milky Way). The night sky and the MW are not blue or purple.

Next steps - read about stacking multiple exposures and stretching.

I recommend Roger Clark's astrophotography articles: https://clarkvision.com/articles/index.html

Great info, thank you Vincent. I have the Z 50 1.8 and the Z 28 2.8 both of which I will try at my next outing. Below is one shot I took of the Perseus/Cassiopeia region (with M31 to the right of Cassiopeia). It was with the 14-30 at 30mm f/4, 8 seconds at ISO800. I pushed the exposure to +4.

The Milky Way did not show very well here.  Could it be too short of an exposure?

OP John Retsal Regular Member • Posts: 259
Re: First Time Settings Question...

Here's a 10 second exposure at ISO 4000, f/4, 30mm with exposure pushed +1.  Better Milky Way.

Andy01 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,146
Re: First Time Settings Question...

John Retsal wrote:

I'm going to try my hand at some wide-field Milky Way photography.

Camera is Nikon Z6II with the Z 14-30 f/4 lens.

I shoot Canon, but I think that Z6 ii is a FF ?

A f4 lens is always going to be challenging without a tracker. Just doesn't let in enough light.

Location has Bortle 2 skies (for those who know what that means), so pretty dark.

I'd be shooting at 14mm and maybe 20mm, wide open at f/4 tripod mounted, no tracking and VR off.

And I assume accurate MF using the screen's maximum focus aid magnification ?

I'm pretty sure I need to keep my exposure times (per the NPF rule) to around 11 sec for 14mm and 8 sec for 20mm in order to have no trailing visible.

Seems a bit conservative for a FF - Rule of 160 ? I use Rule of 300 on my 6D ii (FF) as a guide.

I would think that you could go to around 20 seconds at 14mm and 15 seconds at 15mm, which would be an extra stop of light.

What I'm unsure about are other settings such as ISO (taking into consideration the camera's ISO Invariance) and white balance.

And a bonus question, is there any advantage in shooting in b/w in terms of the quality of the images?

I wouldn't think so since there is a fair bit of colour in the Milky Way. Have a look at Roger Clark's website (as linked above) - lots of good info there. Also use a Daylight WB setting for best results.

Thanks all!

Personally I don't like doing mosaics (multi-row panoramas) in total darkness, so using a 50mm lens as suggested above just doesn't give a wide enough FoV for Milky Way (with single shots), but to each their own - depends on how comfortable you are doing panos at night.

 Andy01's gear list:Andy01's gear list
Canon EOS M5 Canon 6D Mark II Canon EF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM +5 more
Andy01 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,146
Re: First Time Settings Question...

John Retsal wrote:

Here's a 10 second exposure at ISO 4000, f/4, 30mm with exposure pushed +1. Better Milky Way.

It is not just about pushing the entire exposure by x stops. In Roger's website it will tell you how to stretch the image using curves, which can "bring out" the Milky Way much more effectively than a straight push. I suspect that you could get a LOT more out of this image with some careful (and time-consuming) processing.

 Andy01's gear list:Andy01's gear list
Canon EOS M5 Canon 6D Mark II Canon EF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM +5 more
Vincent DP
Vincent DP Regular Member • Posts: 336
Re: First Time Settings Question...

Give the primes a try. Making mosaics is not complicated.

The 14mm f/4 lens has a 3.5mm diameter clear aperture and 9.6mm² area.

The 50mm f/1.8 has a 27.7mm diameter - and an area of 602mm². 62 times more than the ultrawide.

Even with shorter exposures, the 50mm will gather many times more photons, of course from a smaller sky area because of the reduced FOV.

Even the 28mm f/2.8 will be one stop better than the zoom at 28mm f/4, you should try it.

 Vincent DP's gear list:Vincent DP's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Sony a7 II Sony a7 III Olympus E-M5 III +11 more
Vincent DP
Vincent DP Regular Member • Posts: 336
Re: First Time Settings Question...

John Retsal wrote:

The Milky Way did not show very well here. Could it be too short of an exposure?

In that part of the sky, you are looking towards the outer parts of our galaxy, where there are less stars, so it's much fainter than the center of the MW.

Yet, with a long enough total exposure (15-30 minutes), red nebulae and dark galactic dust lanes will start to appear.

 Vincent DP's gear list:Vincent DP's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Sony a7 II Sony a7 III Olympus E-M5 III +11 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads