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Ken Hilts's picture

Using a sub-optimal lens and inexpensive tracker

Kancamagus Illuminati - The stars sing their secrets
Location: Along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, USA.

I don't own any great lens choices for astrophotography. The two least bad options in my kit are a 16-35mm f/4 zoom and a 50mm f/1.8 prime (both Nikon). I decided to go with the 50mm stopped down to f/2.8. Also purchased an inexpensive (Nyx Tracker) motorized barn door mount to try tracking for the first time.

This image was composited using two sets of pano-stitched images at the same tripod location; one set was taken at about 8pm to capture the setting sun on the ridgeline, and the second set was taken at about 10:30pm when the sky was dark enough to capture the starfield.

Settings: 50mm · f/2.8 · 30 sec · ISO 1600

I'd love to learn and get better... any comments are welcome, thanks!

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3 Comments

Francisco B's picture

Nice shot. Ken, the 50 1.8 from nikon is very sharp, and even though its not a low light performer, it gets the job done on a tripod. Don't let the cheap price tag fool you :)

1600 iso seems pretty high for that shot on a tripod, particularly since ur lens is almost wide open. was it pitch dark outside?

Ken Hilts's picture

Thanks! It was pitch dark - I was getting about 1/4 up from black on the histogram and didn't want to shift that any darker by reducing the ISO. Since it was the first time using the Nyx tracker, I thought I'd start with 30 seconds; I can try doubling the exposure time and halving the ISO next time.

Deleted Account's picture

I like the sky colors you got in post-edit.

I use a Pentax K-3 II. It has an on- board "astrotracking" program... allows for up to 5 minutes open time without trails, allegedly. Saves me going deeper in debt for tracking mounts. I found a decent Rokinon 10mm, f/2.8 lens I use for astrophotography.

Not tried any stitching of shots. But I second Francisco on saying... you can still do a lot with a nifty fifty in the dark.