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What Lens for Astrophotography & Aurora?

It seems I can’t go a day without seeing this question at least asked once on a Facebook page or in a forum, so I thought I’d create the go to ‘list’¬†for lenses that are best suited for shooting the night sky and Aurora’s.

Of course there are many factors to consider when purchasing a lens so I have limited the list below to common lenses used and proven in the field. I have structured the list based on the angle of view and the type of body it will be used on either a full frame or crop. I am only focusing on Canon and Nikon, however brand like Samyang are universal, and can be purchased with mounts for Sony and others.

If you are looking for a lens for your camera this list would be a good starting point.

Lenses with a ‘B’ have a bulbous front element and standard 4×6 filters will not fit.

 Full Frame BodyCrop Body
Ultra WideSamyang 14mm f2.8 B
Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 B
Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 B
Canon 16-35mm II f2.8
Canon 14mm f2.8 B
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 B
Nikon 16-35mm f4.0
Sigma 15mm f2.8 (fisheye)
Zeiss 15mm f2.8
Samyang 8mm f2.8 B
Tokina 11-16mm f2.8
WideSamyang 24mm f1.4
Canon 24mm f1.4
Samyang 14mm f2.8 B
Samyang 16mm f2.0
Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 B
Sigma 18-35mm f1.8
Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 B
Canon 16-35mm II f2.8
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 B
Nikon 16-35mm f4.0
StandardSigma 35mm f1.4
Samyang 35mm f1.4
Samyang 50mm f1.4
Canon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Nikon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Samyang 24mm f1.4
Sigma 35mm f1.4
Samyang 35mm f1.4
Telephoto*Samyang 85mm f1.4Samyang 50mm f1.4
Canon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Nikon 50mm f1.4 / f1.8
Samyang 85mm f1.4

*Normally deeper space work or stitching involved requiring motorised mounts.

Reviewing the D810 and D610 Sensors.

Hi All,_MG_6790

So the new Nikon D750 is awesome right? But there seems to be some very conflicting information available on the internet.

Nikon have claimed that the new sensor in the D750 performs much better than the existing technology currently being used in the D8X0 and D6X0 cameras, particularly when it comes to low light and noise performance.

However Dx0’s testing revealed that the D750’s sensor is only just on par with the D610 and offers little advantage based on their testing.

So how do the D610 and the D810 compare to the new D750 for long exposures?

Well the data is in, head on over to the Long Exposure Sensor Test page for the results. Thanks again to Walch Optics for allowing me to run the tests.

Oblivious to the lights.

IMG_7875When your out shooting late at night you have a lot of time for thinking during exposures and between shots, especially if your by yourself. I often think of all those people at home, watching TV, or asleep in their beds, oblivious to what is going on around then, and the silent lights that weave across the night sky above them.

I think the mood in this shot sums up how I often think of those people. They are inside, working away or watching some program on TV. Meanwhile outside the lights are dancing in the sky and the stars are shining brightly on a perfectly clear and moonless night.

The picture was taken in Mortimer Bay (Tasmania). The photograph to the right was taken only a stones throw from the boat shed when the Aurora was a little more active.

Sensor review of the new Nikon D750

I’ve just completed the Nikon D750 and Df sensor tests for long exposure noise. It looks like the new D750 is the king of the hill.

Head on over to the testing page to see the results.

A big thanks to Walch Optics in Hobart for allowing me to check out the new D750 and Df.

14mm Samyang f2.8

Brisbane CDB by Brendan Davey
Brisbane CDB, a photo by Brendan Davey on Flickr.

I’ve been using the 14mm Samyang for a while now, and I must admit it’s a very good lens, very sharp. I’ve noticed on occasion that it is susceptible to lens flares, but nothing too bad considering it’s 14mm.

Using the Abode lens profile downloader I’ve managed to get a reasonable lens profile for use with Lightroom 4.4 and it’s fixed most of the vignetting and distortion.

It’s totally manual, which for landscape photography is perfect, since you normally spend the extra time to setup your shot and check focus using live view anyway.

If your considering buying one, then go for it, it’s well worth the money, or lack there off when compared to the brand equivalent.

Night Focus, Easy As….

Okay so we have all sat in the picture theater and thought “Focus FOCUS”, and maybe recently you started to shoot at night only to find your camera was not up to the task.

“Yer, my camera won’t focus, so how do you focus to infinity at night?”

Most cameras are not designed to focus in extreme low light, and will require manual intervention, switch the lens from Auto to Manual focus mode.

“Ok, so my lens is now in manual mode and I set the focus to infinity but it’s still blurry?”

This is normally the case as the infinity mark is almost never perfect, think of it like the pirate code, that is more a “guide”.

“You mean I can’t focus at all at night?”

There are a number of ways to get perfect focus in the dark, here are the 2 easiest.

1. If your camera supports live view use it. Set you lens to manual focus, and focus to infinity, then using live view and zoom (normally 10x) you should be able to locate a distant light on the horizon or bright star you can adjust the focus on to get it perfect. This will require some practice and stars or faint objects may only work on better / later model cameras and lens with larger apertures like f2.8 and lower.

2. If your camera does not have live view then during the DAY have your camera focus on a distant object in auto focus mode (something on the horizon), then looking at your lens note where the focus mark is, it should be near infinity, but it probably wont be exactly on it. Take note of the location, or place some masking tape next to the mark and mark it with pen so you can manually move the focus back to this spot later. Repeat this a few times to confirm the mark. Now at night set your lens to manual focus and move the focus to your recorded mark. This method is not as good as the one above as lenses have a little bit of “play” or tolerance, but it should be more than good enough for infinity focus.

There you have it two ways to get perfect focus in the dark. – Cheers.

Aurora Australis – Storm.

South Arm Beach by Brendan Davey
South Arm Beach, a photo by Brendan Davey on Flickr.

Tasmania, and Southern Victoria witnessed a fantastic Aurora last night and I managed to shot quite a number of great shots.

The Aurora was quite visible with the naked eye, and it was very easy to see the ribbons, and at one stage they were so bright they were showing clearly in live view on my camera. WOW.

Hopefully we will continue to see more over the coming months.

Orbsome Art.

LED Orbs
LED Orb Art

LED Orb Art, No Photoshop.

I friend of mine showed me some LED orbs he created the other day, and we decide to go out and shoot some more. The shot above was a 2 minute exposure, involving myself and chops to create the 3 LED Orbs. I’m still experimenting and I’m hoping to have a shot not to far away that has 4 orbs of different colors soon, including a “split orb”. Once I’ve “mastered” the technique I’m going to post an article on how you can create your own cool orbs.

More Orbs can be viewed at my flickr page, link below.

Lake Waktipu – New Zealand

Queenstown_New_Zealand_Lake_Waktipu
Lake Wakipu - Queenstown, New Zealand.

The weather over the past few days has been wet and cloudy. So rather that go out to shoot I’ve been playing with Lightroom. I’ve spent some time going back over the past few years to find those shots that are not “keepers”, but very close to see if Lightroom can do some magic to get it over the line.

While in New Zealand last year I took some shots of Lake Waktipu ( Queenstown ). The amount of stars visible is amazing, The above shot would have been perfect with less cloud and maybe an ND Grad over the stars with a slightly longer exposure to bring out the lake and mountains. However Lightroom has done a fairly good job to recover some details.

Taking time to shoot.

Recently while away for work I had the pleasure of visiting a few new country’s, and I’d just like to encourage any readers of this Blog to always take the time to incorporate some photography into their trip, not just the tourist shots, but taking time to return to a nice spot or setting aside some time to shoot a particular event or location in detail.

Schedules are always tight when traveling, but I have found some of the better shots I’ve taken while away, like most good shots are the planned ones. Shots where preparation and time has been taken with a clear goal in mind, not just a shot from a moving tour bus.

Take the time, even if your exhausted, looking back you won’t regret it.

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