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Deep-sky objects photography

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Hey guys,
 
I was wondering if anyone is using his Fuji camera for photographing deep-sky objects, like galaxies, nebulae or even planets? I haven't found yet any Fujist in the DSO world, well dominated by Canon and Nikon!
 
If yes, what kind of gear are you using (lenses, mounts, telescopes)? What would you (not) recommend?
 
 
I am currently considering buying an equatorial mount (possibly iOptron SkyTracker Pro) to use with my X-T1 and an adapted Nikon 70-300 lens. I'm not sure about the IQ this combination, but I made a few tests in daylight and it seemed okay. It's also a rather lightweight and cheaper alternative to buying a telescope set...

 

Thanks for your feedbacks!

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Konzy

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Hey Milandro,

 

Yes I know Lonelyspeck's website, it's great! Lots of resources, tests and tutorials to dive into astrophotography. Definitely recommended!

 

But my question was not really on Milky Way photography, which I already did and is fairly easy, but more on distant objects, like nebulae, galaxies or even planets.

 

Thanks!

 

Konzy

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Hey guys!

 

I finally had a chance to make some pictures of the sky. Munich's weather is often challenging, and the Moon isn't very helpful in this regard either!

 

I bought the iOptron tracker, as well as a cheap and yet excellent lens, the Super-Takumar 200mm f/4 from Pentax. This is an old school lens from the 70', I think, which is often recommended as an affordable quality astro lens.

 

Here is one of my first test, the Andromeda galaxy. It's far from being perfect, but as a first try it's really rewarding to get just a little glimpse of something so big and far away! When you think of all the things that are in this pictures: billions of stars, planets and, perhaps, lives... And when you think that the light that hit my camera's sensor traveled about 24,000,000,000,000,000,000 km during 2.5 million years... Wow.

 

 

This 20 minutes long exposure is a stack of 40 "light" photos (as well as some "dark" frames used to diminish noise) taken with an equatorial mount (iOptron Sky Tracker Pro) and aligned together in DeepSkyStacker software. Single exposures were 30 seconds long, at ISO 1600 and f/4.

 

The big bright halo in the center is the core of the galaxy. You can see a bit of the arms of the galaxy around the core, as well as 2 satellite galaxies: Messier 32 (the brightest halo at the left of Andromeda's core) and Messier 110 (the faint halo at the bottom right). Andromeda is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way, and will collide with our galaxy in about 4.5 billion years... we have time to prepare!

 

Unfortunately, I'm still a beginner and did several mistakes:

- The tracking of Polaris was not accurate enough, and we can see a bit of star trailing. For those who are not familiar with tracking mounts, it consists of a motor aimed at the Polaris star, and rotating at the speed of the Earth, in order to eliminate the movement of our planet and make long exposures of the night sky.

- The stacking: I probably failed something, because there is a weird fabric-like pattern in the picture. Someone told me it might be due to the de-bayering of the picture, but I have no idea what it means! I'll look into that later

- The exposure: the exposure, 20 minutes, is not enough to bring all the details out of the galaxy. 1 hour would have been better! Not to mention that Munich is a light polluted area, even in the city park, and that the moon was quite bright that night.

- The aperture I used, F/4, produced quite a lot of vignetting. In astrophotography, it can be removed quite easily, but I need to spend some time on this. Perhaps next time I'll use an aperture of f/5.6, which seemed to produce better results on my test shots.

 

But on the other hand, I think it's a good start and I have a lot to learn, both in the setup itself and the post-production.

 

The version I posted on Instagram is a bit different, the enhanced filters I used brought some of the details in the arms back:

 

 

As a comparison, here is a picture taken by Hubble, NASA's space camera. You will notice that their picture is infinitely better than mine, but hey, I can't afford to send my Fuji into space

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To be continued!

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Konzy

Edited by konzy

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Hey guys,

 

So I finally had the time to continue my space adventure. I got really better in mastering both the software and the hardware! And yet, so much to learn...

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Here is the picture from my 1st post, reworked with better settings. The X-Trans sensor is kind of new for stacking softwares, and without the proper settings, it introduces some kind of ugly canvas in the picture. I was able to correct it though, by tweaking some options in Deep Sky Stacker.

 

 

Looks cleaner, but still a bit blurry/foggy!

 

 

 

A few days later, I had another attempt. The conditions were much better:

- no Moon (it was just after the eclipse!)

- Andromeda was higher in the sky: the higher, the better, because light has to travel through less atmosphere. And the atmosphere is full of light pollution, particules, clouds, humidity...

- The polar alignment was much more precise than the first time, so managed to do longer poses (1 min vs 30 seconds)

 

Here is one RAW image, SOOC:

 

 

 

After stacking in DSS and correcting in Lightroom, I managed to get this:

 

 

 

I didn't like the colors, so I converted everything to B&W. Then, I made a color version, just for fun! I got inspired by some Apple wallpaper that I used on my computer, a few years ago.

 

 

 

Things I need to improve:

- Reduce the noise

- Shoot from a less light-polluted area (but I only have a bike, so I'm limited!)

- Improve the tracking to make longer exposures (aiming at 2 min)

- Improve the post-production

 

Cheers!

 

Konzy

 

Edited by konzy

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I have only tried once with deep sky objects as we have had terrible skies due to smoke from forest fires here in southern Alberta, Canada. Here is my first attempt using an X-T2 and 100-400 at 400mm on a Skytracker. I only used 10 second exposures (30 of them, cant remember). I used no dark frames or light frames, just combined in Deep Sky Stacker then adjusted in LR. I needed way more combined exposure time but I was not yet sure how accurately the mount would track with all the weight on there. I will try again when the sky is not so smokey. (I do not have access where I am now to my original file so this is the facebook converted junk)

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I have only tried once with deep sky objects as we have had terrible skies due to smoke from forest fires here in southern Alberta, Canada. Here is my first attempt using an X-T2 and 100-400 at 400mm on a Skytracker. I only used 10 second exposures (30 of them, cant remember). I used no dark frames or light frames, just combined in Deep Sky Stacker then adjusted in LR. I needed way more combined exposure time but I was not yet sure how accurately the mount would track with all the weight on there. I will try again when the sky is not so smokey. (I do not have access where I am now to my original file so this is the facebook converted junk)

 

Nice one! The 100-400 seems like a very capable lens for astro. Given the circumstances, I guess the result would be very nice under clearer skies. 

 

Feel free to share your results if you try it again!

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Konzy, I really enjoyed reading about your "journey" and your last attempt is amazing. I used to list astronomy as one of my hobbies but I am getting too old and soft to go out in the cold late hours! Finding a dark site is the key but it is getting increasingly challenging nowadays.

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How do you point to specific object? Also, any problems with the ball head drifting under the load of a big lense?

 

I use a smartphone app called Star Chart, but there are tons of other similar apps available. Basically, it's a start map that shows you what you are pointing at. Then, you need to use your eyes to find the object in the sky (if it's visible), or nearby stars to guess where it is (for non visible objects). Usually I take a few test shots to center as much as possible the object in the photo.

 

For the ballhead, I was using the one from my Sirui tripod, but I feared it would drift, indeed. So I bought a video "ballhead", that is also easier for astrophotography (https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B0711J4YFV/). If I need a little push on the left, for instance, it's far more precise than a classic ballhead, since you can control both directions independently. 

 

Konzy, I really enjoyed reading about your "journey" and your last attempt is amazing. I used to list astronomy as one of my hobbies but I am getting too old and soft to go out in the cold late hours! Finding a dark site is the key but it is getting increasingly challenging nowadays.

 

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

/uploads/emoticons/default_smile.png"> It's a fascinating world, indeed, but you need motivation... Right now, I don't have any, it's way to cold in Bavaria at night!

 

But a couple nights ago, I noticed Orion was out, in front of my balcony. I thought it could be worth a try, so I just got my tripod out, set up my X-T1 and the Samyang 135/2 on it, aimed around the belt or Orion and wow! A wonderful purple nebula (M42), clearly visible on the liveview. So I took a few shots, and I'm pleased with the result! It's a very basic setup, only a tripod, and I'll definitely try again with slower lenses. Luckily, the Samyang is a very fast lens (f/2), so that helped a lot, but I wonder what the other can do.

 

Of course, it's a bit blurry, very noisy and slightly out of focus. But considering I did it with just a tripod, in a big city, on my balcony with a major street below, I'm quite surprised it's not that bad! I'm sure you can find some objects out there to photograph as well. Orion is very easy to find, and even with crappy conditions, you can get something nice

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Edited by konzy

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Looks like I'm getting better at every post 

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Here is another shot of Orion's nebula, taken in Switzerland on Christmas eve. It's much better than my first attempt, a few weeks ago!

/uploads/emoticons/default_smile.png"> The mountain skies were much clearer and less polluted than the city center where I live.

Gear and settings:
- Fuji X-T1, tripod and Samyang 135mm f/2 at f/2.8
- 150 "light" exposures of 1 second each, ISO 1600
- 60 "dark" exposures at the same settings (to remove noise)
- RAW files converted to TIF in Lightroom
- TIF files aligned and stacked in DeepSkyStacker
- Final TIF file cropped and adjusted in Lightroom (curves, saturation)

 

 

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