Jump to content


Photo

Astrotrac Only Photography

Astrotrac astrophotography

8 replies to this topic

#1 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 30 August 2016 - 04:16 PM

And as I promised I'm starting the thread about Astrotrac 'guiding system'. So please, no other guiding systems shots unless to show the difference between. But rather show only the Astrotrac. I wanted this thread to help anyone who is wondering if it is worth the money.
The camera of course is unrestricted - mirrorless, DLSR, telescope, phone ;)
 
Ask anything and I'll do my best to answer all of the questions.
 
For the beginning a little info. I've got Astrotrac since yesterday but because of very nice but not so photography friendly storms and clouds today's the first day I could test it.
 
-------------------------------------------------------
So let's start with what I've got.
 
Forgive me for no photos right now. No time but will include them later.
Bold font - Astrotrac set.

  • Astrotrac
  • Polar Scope - needed for longer expositions and bigger zoom lenses.
  • AA Battery Holder - you need this to turn on the Astrotrac! In the package you will only get the cable to the car lighter. The power needed is 12V but have no idea how many amperes so you need to watch out with what you already have.
  • Manfrotto MK055XPRO3 - any tripod will be ok but it have to be good and steady one. Heavier=better. The other thing is that it have to hold extra +2kg (astrotrac+ballhead)
  • Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 x2 - Whatever suits you but you need two. One to align the Astrotrac, one for the camera. The first one have to hold the Astrotrac (1.5kg), another ballhead (in my case 0.5kg), camera and lens (70-200+D500 is another 2.5kg). So the first ballhead holds ~4.5kg (its maximum load 10kg). Tripod itself 5kg (its maximum load 9kg). Read carefully specs of your gear.
  • Manfrotto 200PL/RC2 - this one is extra for me because of using the Manfrotto family gear and because I'm lazy and already attached two the same plates to the camera and 70-200 ;)
  • Nikon D500
  • AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED
  • AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
  • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
  • iPhone 6
  • Clinometer App (free) - Sorry don't know if or how such an app is named on Android. School protractor will be good as well. Or it might be that ball head you're using will have proper signs to determine the degree. For setting the right latitude of the Astrotrac.
  • Compass App (standard app) - don't have the real one so... X_x For setting the right direction (N/S).
  • Triggertrap App+dongle - cable release and a lot of other options. The app is free but without the dongle and cable to the camera it is useless.
  • Stellarium ($2.99) - still using it to make sure I'm looking at the right reference star.

OK so as for today (30.08.2016) Polar Scope is not collimated at all. So all of the shots in this post are set plus minus in the correct direction. So do not judge anything based on those first photo.
 
-------------------------------------------------------
 Photos.
 
Base for the Astrotrac. Manfrotto MK055XPRO3 with the first Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2.
DSC8489.jpg
 
Base for the camera. Previous one with attached Astrotrac including Polar Scope and the AA Battery Holder and the second Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2.
DSC8493.jpg

Astrotrac connected to the ballhead with the Manfrotto 200PL/RC2.
DSC8502.jpg

Using this converting screw.

One note. This screw is not available with the ballheads. I had it with the extra 200PL/RC I bought. So when using the same setup you will need this tiny screw to connect 200PL/RC to Astrotrac.
DSC8505.jpg

It all stack like this.
DSC8501.jpg

Polar Scope of course with illuminated attachment to light up the guides. The light is pretty strong and it came with batteries so it is ready to use right from the pack.
DSC8506.jpg 
Now tips and tricks using nothing besides the things I already got with the lenses or tripod.

 

Polar Scope magnet is strong but not strong enough. It tends to detach. So to make sure to keep it safe - because if it fall off it will lose the collimation (that's the best option) or breaks (the worst option) - I attached the "screwdriver" used to set up the screws in Manfrotto tripod. It click-on perfectly. It is light and loosely sits there so it won't interfere with the collimation of the Polar Scope but when the magnet lets go...
DSC8495.jpg

 

...it blocks the Polar Scope. Easy as that. Nothing else is needed.

DSC8497.jpg

For holding my second Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 I'm using the bag from Nikkor 70-200mm as I'm using backpack (Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW) to carry my gear.
DSC8508.jpg

 

And lastly the battery holder I've got is pretty cave stone man design so I'm holding all of the batteries in place with normal rubber band.
DSC8509.jpg

-------------------------------------------------------
 
What is the setup and workflow.
MK055XPRO3 leveled up with one of the MHXPRO-BHQ2 on top.
One extra bought 200PL/RC2 with additional in package screw adapter (sorry don't know the accurate codename. This screw lets you attach the 200PL/RC2 to the bigger tripod mounting hole instead of the normal little camera one) gave me the ability to attach it to the Astrotrac in the bottom so I can now easily attach/detach it to the ball head within a second.
On top of the Astrotrac another MHXPRO-BHQ2.
And on top of course goes the camera.
 
Before attaching the Astrotrac I'm using Clinometer App to tilt the ball head to the right latitude so it is pointing the level of Polaris or the southern area of the south pole. In my case it is ~52.4 degrees.
After that just attach the Astrotrac. It is easier to maneuver ballhead without the 1.5kg load on top.
Then with the use of Polar Scope I'm turning the Astrotrac (the ball head is now fixed and do not changed at all only the MHXPRO-BHQ2 is turning left/right) to the north. If you don't know how to use it I'll write a little tutorial (northern hemisphere only, sorry).  But as I said, without collimation it is the same as using the compass so I just turned it +/- North based on the iPhone compass and started to stack another ballhead and camera.
One note. When using compass watch out for the Astrotrac Polar Scope holder as it is magnet so it always will be 'on' the North ;)
 
-------------------------------------------------------
After setting everything up and focusing the camera the first shooting started.
 
First test without the Astrotrac guiding so like it was so far.
5 lights, 5 darks - 30s, ISO 400, f/1.4, 50mm.
2.5 minutes of exposition and 2.5 minutes of darks to clean the noise. All photos stacked in the DeepSkyStacker.
 
The target was... Mirfak and the company in Perseus constellation. Just first high enough and the brightest star I saw on the city center sky. So maybe nothing very interesting but it is just the first rough test. I'm leaving M31 for the 200mm :)
 
image.jpg
 
As you may guess the result is trailed a lot. 30 seconds on 50mm (actually 75mm on DX) is about 22 seconds too long. What's even worse a lot of fainted stars are missing. Only the brightest are showing but... Yea, ugly :D
 
And then the magic begins.
Astrotrac on. The same settings and...

image.jpg
 
1706776.jpg
 
B)
 
So as you can see it's working bloody good despite the rough setting up I did. I'm guessing that after collimating and setting everything the right way, not like today, I could set the camera to ISO 100 and exposition around 90 seconds and the results would be even better.
It has a very big potential.
 
-------------------------------------------------------
 
Edit from 31.08.2016
 
A little overlay of the first and the last shot of the series to see the error in tracking. Still using above rough settings with pointing N according to the messy electronic compass ;)
100% crop of the full resolution photo (5568x3712).
 
full_shot_crop.jpg
 
You can see that I missed a little. I was loosing around 1px per minute. So I guess it still is not that bad and still gives a lot of space for error. What's strange that the stars are moving to the left like guiding was faster than the stars. I guess that it is connected to the misalignment I had but will see in the future why is that. Was it too much to the left/right/up/down or a little of everything messed up :)
 
Next will be the mighty 70-200 full zoom.
10-24 should give tack sharp stars even for few minutes exposures. It is DX lens so should easily give steady 60s shot without trailing and without guiding. With guiding will it miss anything? Don't think so. It is a hell of a wide lens with 90 degree field of view so the biggest stars will have one pixel.
But of course it will be tested as well.
 
-------------------------------------------------------
 
So anyway that's it for the first post. Will rewrite it later and add the photos but for now you know what's going on.
As for the collimation of the Polar Scope I'll try to write how to do this the easiest way possible, thought there is no such a way... ;)
 
Thanks for watching and waiting for questions :ph34r:


Edited by rospondek, 01 September 2016 - 11:32 AM.

  • JakeSPhoto likes this

#2 David Pavlich

David Pavlich

    Mr Astrophotography!

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,333 posts
  • LocationMandeville, LA
  • Lenses:Canon 70-200 f2.8 II, Canon 16-35 f4L IS, Tamron 35mm f1.8, Sigma 100-400 f5/6.3
  • Flashes:Yongnuo 560, 565 and 568.
  • Camera Body or Bodies:5D MkIII,

Posted 30 August 2016 - 09:00 PM

I know several guys that use this nifty little gizmo and get great results with it.  You're gonna' have some fun!

 

David


'When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane, you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.'

 


#3 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 31 August 2016 - 02:33 AM

After this one photo I'm really happy with the results. Stars are round and colorful.

The artifacts in the shapes are connected to the shutter release. I did it manually not with cable release or intervalomerter :) Too lazy to set it up ;)

Of course I didn't mention it but those photos are 100% crops from the full frame.



#4 marcod

marcod

    Post Master

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 68 posts
  • LocationItaly
  • Lenses:Nikkor AF-S 35mm f1.8 DX
    Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f2.8 Pro DX
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D5500

Posted 31 August 2016 - 04:50 AM

Thanks for this! As we are a curious bunch, could you also please add a shot of the setup!  :rolleyes:



#5 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 31 August 2016 - 09:59 AM

Yes I will, don't be afraid :)



#6 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 31 August 2016 - 04:01 PM

OK gear shots later. Photos are more important :D

So, as I said in the first post, 70-200mm was the second lens to test.

First of all I can say that 200mm (300mm DX) is a lot. The margin of error in aligning shrinks very fast. So what's the problem?
30s exposure with the meh_should_be_alright aligning is too long. The trailing is not that bad like with no tracking at all but it is noticeable. So when zooming to 100% you can't see the dots.
So for now (until everything is set right) 200mm is slowed down to 10s.

Weight:
Although everything was way below the margin of maximum load weight I was a little cautious when leaving camera for shooting. Now I can say. tripod and both ballheads are strong enough to easily hold this equipment. Of course with 70-200mm camera and lens are attached by the lens. But that's obvious.

Settings:
10 lights, 10 darks - 10s, ISO 800, f/2.8, 200mm
In DeepSkyStacker 98% best lights picked so these are 9 lights stacks (90 seconds of exposure).

First object Double Cluster in Perseus (clean plus partial 100% zoom).
double_cluster.jpg

double_cluster_comp.jpg

For me this looks great. Stars are sharp and trailing is not visible in the 100% magnification or at least I can't see it.
Even the biggest stars are having a little spikes which is quite surprising.

And now the Magnificent M31. Only 90 seconds of stack but...

Andromeda.jpg

Andromeda_comp.jpg

For me it is stunning. Again take a correction for the short exposure time (only 90 seconds, should be 90 but minutes), bad alignment of equipment and sky above big city center.
Nevertheless it looks great and there is no way to get it on 200mm with longer exposures without guiding.

Second day, second lens and second victory.
So far nothing against Astrotrac.


  • TrailEx likes this

#7 TrailEx

TrailEx

    Post Master

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 98 posts
  • Lenses:Canon 24-70 F/4
    Canon 100-400 F/4.5-5.6 IS II
    Rokinon 24 F/1.4
    Rokinon 14 F/2.8
    Laowa 60mm F/2.8 2X Macro
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Canon 5D Mark IV
    Canon 6D

Posted 31 August 2016 - 04:08 PM

Looks really nice. Especially that shot of Andromeda. I've taken my rig out for a few sessions, but I've been having polar alignment problems that have prevented me from getting successful long exposures. I guess I need to get a polar scope...

I would try again this weekend, but I've got a backpacking trip scheduled already.



#8 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 31 August 2016 - 04:26 PM

Thanks :)

Yup, without polar alignment there is no way for longer exposures on +200mm. Your 400mm canon has to be aligned almost perfectly I guess :D But it can be done :) And the results would be great.

 

Tomorrow it's time for the easiest lens so 10-24mm and I guess I'll try to set exposure to +60s to see how it will end up. I'm thinking about a wide view of Andromeda environment. ISO 100 and 60s exposure for 20 minutes. Can be interesting.

 

I've added in the first post in the gear section Triggertrap which I have but totally forgot bout it :D



#9 rospondek

rospondek

    Super Geek

  • Stunners
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts
  • LocationKrakow, Poland
  • Lenses:AF-S NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED DX
    AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
    AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Venus Optics LAOWA 60 mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro 2:1
    AF-S NIKKOR 105 mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED MICRO
  • Flashes:R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • Camera Body or Bodies:Nikon D500

Posted 01 September 2016 - 11:38 AM

Photos of the setup added in the first post.
 
Today's weather looks rather nice so:

  • will try the 10-24mm
    • wide shot with the Andromeda NE (over 1 minute exposures)
    • Milky Way center S (over 1 minute exposures)
  • at about 23:30 (UTC+1) I'll try to catch Pleiades with 200mm.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited to say:
 
As I thought with 24mm (I didn't even try wider shots) with still rough alignment I can easily take very long exposures. And by very long I don't mean 1 minute, or even two. 5 minute shot is sharp.
Unfortunately shots are awful cause of light pollution. You can't see it so bad with 30-60s exposure but longer the worse in my case.
Anyway it is the test of Astrotrac not my location so:

 

Settings:
Single photo - 5 minutes, ISO 100, f/4.5, 24mm

 

Andromeda wide shot.
DSC8518.jpg

 

DSC8518_zoom.jpg

 

Perseus wide shot.
DSC8521.jpg

 
DSC8521_zoom.jpg

 

So photos are bad, tracking still great.

Third lens and third victory. Just waiting till 23:30 for Pleiades and first batch of tests will be over.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Back to the 200mm and looks like I'm getting used to polar alignment set 'more or less'.

I've got 30s exposure without any noticeable movement. So with the right setup 200mm can produce sharp photos with pretty long exposures. I won't check today if I can go higher than one minute - too late, too much playing with Triggertrap connection, tomorrow morning job. Some other time.

Here are the results.

 

Settings:
39 lights, 19 darks - 30s, ISO 400, f/2.8, 200mm

14.5 minutes of exposition and 9.5 minutes of darks to clean the noise. All photos stacked in the DeepSkyStacker.

 

plejady.jpg


Edited by rospondek, 01 September 2016 - 05:20 PM.




Reply to this topic



  



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Astrotrac, astrophotography

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users