Moon Recording. Whats best value?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by paulroche, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. Hi all,

    Im looking to start recording and tracking the moon at night. Im wondering what Camera, Lens and Tripod for best value would be out there. Sorry but im not very experienced in the field but im slowly looking to get into it. Thanks for any replies
  2. You want a STEADY tripod, as outdoors could be windy.
    • So no light weight tripod.
    • A medium tripod can be made steadier by hanging a weight/camera bag under the tripod.
    • If you can find a used Tiltal, that is a good tripod, at a reasonable price. But it is a bit heavy.
    The moon moves constantly, so you will need to constantly adjust the tripod to aim the camera+lens to the moon.

    Camera is any SLR or dSLR that you have.
    I used both 35mm film and DX digital.

    Lens depends on how big you want the moon to be. The bigger you want the moon, the longer you need the lens to be.
    I used a 300mm on a 35mm camera, and that was adequate for what I wanted.
    What camera + lens do you have now? Take a pix of the moon, then think about how much bigger you want the moon.
    • 2x as big = 2x the focal length,
    • 4x as big = 4x the focal length.
    Exposure of the moon is the "sunny 16 rule." The surface of the moon is in full daylight.
    Then pick the equivalent exposure, to increase the shutter speed to at least 2x the focal length of your lens, for stability.
    • set ISO = 200
    • sunny 16 = 1/250 sec @ f/16
    • equivalent exposure = 1/1000 sec @ f/8
    Then bracket, because the best exposure for YOU, may not be the "theoretical" exposure.
    gordonjb and Sandy Vongries like this.
  3. The moon is bright. ISO 800, f/8, 1/800-sec. handheld at any focal length. A tripod is a waste of money for a normal moon shot. Here's 1,000mm handheld:

    [​IMG]Sony/Canon Moonshot by David Stephens, on Flickr
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I don't agree, David! .
  5. I was told you could apply the "Sunny 16" rule to a moon shot. There is also the "Looney 11" rule just for the moon.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    And here's another with tripod - straight ex crop.
    DSC_2490 (1000x1000).jpg
  7. The most important element is sky clarity and angle of the sun. Full-moon has the least favorable conditions. I like all sorts of gibbous conditions, but look for the moon almost every day.

    If you're going to log daily, then you'll need to time it where the moon is around 45-degrees or higher, to avoid the atmospheric distortion when it's lower in the sky. Of course, to do it every night will mean getting up at some "astronomer hours" on certain nights. Other times of month, you'll be shooting during daylight, which is when I do more than half of my shooting, but I never shoot at midday.

    I'd suggest practicing for a while, before committing to a series of recordings. Make sure that you can do it in many conditions.
  8. Very true, but I'd suggest switching to f/8 for a sharper image, with most super-telephotos.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Heaven knows, I'm not a tripod guy in most cases, and the moon only gets my attention on rare occasions. Conditions where I live are perfect, with minimal sky glow. Once you have figured out just how to capture it you can get the job done with monotonous regularity . I have caught pretty decent shots hand held, but usually on the spur of the moment. A tripod just makes it even easier, and IMO sharper..
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
    dcstep likes this.
  10. I usually shoot my moon shots out the window of the car. Really. Going around to the trunk and pulling out the tripod seems like a waste of time. Sharpness is not a problem for me.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I think that for more tailored answers, a specific meaning of the verb "tracking" would be useful and also it wouldbe helpful to provide more details of the general aim(s) of your project.

    For example, if you are tracking the moon's movement across one portion of one night, then, a tripod would seem to me to be an essential bit of gear.

  12. You don't need a tripod? LO! The moon is a relatively easy subject for astrophography, but a lot depends on how fussy you are over details. Even with due diligence you will have a lot of spoiled shots. You need high magnification to fill the frame because the moon only subtends an angle of 0.5 degrees, whereas constellations cover many degrees and many deep space objects like the Andromeda galaxy, 2 degrees.

    An 800 mm lens at 1/800 reduces the effective resolution of your camera to about 6 MP. That's true of any shutter speed by the 1/F rule. You would need to use 1/3F to obtain a reasonably sharp image by modern standards. You need not only a solid tripod, but a stiff mount. Even so you must allow vibrations to dampen out, and hope there is a break in any wind or breeze.

    With a tripod and high magnification, you must account for the relative motion of the moon. This is a combination of the earth's rotation and the orbital revolution of the moon. A tracking device like an iOptron has settings which will give reasonable solar/lunar tracking. It's not perfect, but close enough that you can set up and time your shot. Since the moon is so bright (full sunlight on a surface with about 5% reflectance), this motion is easily captured at practical shutter speeds. Without tracking, the moon will quickly move through the field of an 800 mm lens, requiring frequent adjustments. You are also subject to turbulence in the atmosphere, which is lumped into the astronomical jargon as "good seeing."
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Just on the discussion of "tripod or no tripod', it is probably important to note that the EXIF details attached to David's Photos indicate that the two images were made with a Canon, Image Stabilized Lens, so it's safe to assume that Image Stabilization was turned ON?

    I think that is a significant factor in the discussion and also a relevant piece of information when addressing the OP's question.

  14. Even with image stabilization, it is very hard to hold a long lens on target without some means of support. Secondly, I find the usual admonition to turn IS off for use on a tripod doesn't necessarily apply to long lenses. Minor disturbances like touching the camera or tripod, or a light breeze cause a lot of shake. IS corrects for these unplanned events.
    William Michael likes this.
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    . . . for clarity, my point was that: disclosing the fact that IS was (probably) used is most relevant to any discussion concerning "hand holding capacity".

    Ed_Ingold likes this.
  16. Exactly. No one can hand hold 1000mm without IS, except at a very high shutter speed.

    Here's double stabilization, with in-lens stabilization, plus 5-axis, in-body stabilization, combined, for this handheld shot tonight:

    [​IMG]Waxing Gibbous Moon by David Stephens, on Flickr
    William Michael likes this.
  17. Why do you say this? It's not hard at all, with modern lenses, with IS. Have you tried it?
  18. A tracker is totally unnecessary for single shots of the moon. The shot that I posted above, was at 1,000mm on a full-frame body. All you do is point the rig at the moon, let the AF work its magic and shoot.

    Some would make this into a much more complex problem than it is. Even if you need a tripod, for instance because you have rotator cuff injury, as a couple of my friends do, then you simply manually aim the camera for each shot. It's VERY simple.

    With all this tripod/no-tripod talk, let me restate the most important factor, which is the clarity of the atmosphere. It varies greatly from day to day. Last night it was wonderfully clear here in Colorado. Today, there are no clouds, but there's haze over the mountains, which will probably negatively impact any shot of the moon tonight. It'll look "okay", but not as crisp and sharp, no matter how good your technique. My shot last night was about 90-degrees above the horizon. Even on good nights, low to the horizon will have more atmosphere in the shot. From experience, my best moon shots are usually 45-degrees and higher; however, there are exceptions, so give the moon a look, even when it's just coming up or going down. Here's a happy exception:

    [​IMG]Moon set on a pink tinged Mt. Evans by David Stephens, on Flickr
    Gary Naka likes this.
  19. Another thread without enough info to answer properly, and the OP never returned to clarify. Lots of great shots and info, though!
    William Michael likes this.

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