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 Post subject: Meteor digital imaging
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:35 am 
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Part of the ongoing upgrade to the Meteor Section's webpages which began recently has been the introduction of notes and advice on meteor digital imaging. Digital imaging technology has evolved so quickly, it's been difficult to keep pace with developments. Many of the more affordable digital cameras are unsuitable for meteor work (which needs a minimum of an f/4, preferably wide-angle, lens, sensitivity of at least ISO 800, and capable of making 30-seconds-plus exposures). In addition, it's not clear always from catalogue or specification webpages which cameras have all these features, nor whether software that permits, for example, some Canon digital SLR cameras (DSLRs) to take timed-exposures when connected to a computer, is compatible with cheaper Canon cameras, or what similar possibilities may exist for other camera makes.

It's not the intention here to review in detail particular cameras or software, nor make recommendations for specific models (all of which information may go quickly out of date), but instead to generate some discussion which might assist newcomers to meteor imaging pick the right kind of camera for them, drawing on the experiences of Forum members who have tried meteor digital imaging for themselves.

Please note this topic is to concentrate on purely meteor-related camera observing, NOT general astrophotography, NOR imaging using any kind of telescope.

Alastair McBeath,
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
E-mail: <meteor@popastro.com> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)
New-look Meteor homepage: http://www.popastro.com/sections/meteor.htm


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:25 am 
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Hi

I know you dont want to go into indepth recommendations on here but could you supply a guideline as to what models you would like to see being used for this area

Dave

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:53 am 
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The Canon DSLRs are well suited to meteor photography because you can of course fit any suitable lens and can 'tether' them to a computer via a USB lead which then permits an automatic sequence of timed exposures of up to 30 seconds or in some cases longer using the Canon software supplied with the camera. This certainly applies to the 10D and 40D (and the others in between those, such as the 20D), and almost certainly to the 50D and all the others in the same basic series, such as the popular 350D. Could people with these cameras confirm that this is the case, which is what this thread is all about (and try to keep it on topic, please!)?

The Canon EOS Utility software does allow individual B exposures of longer than 30 seconds for the 40D, including in a sequence. So for example you can ask for automatic repeated 60 second exposures. However, the earlier Remote Capture software would not permit repeated exposures of more than 30 seconds. [Edited]

Longer B exposures are only possible on the 10D by using the Canon-specific cable release.

Robin


Last edited by Robin Scagell on Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:40 pm 
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Robin Scagell wrote:
While the Canon software does allow individual B exposures of longer than 30 seconds for the 40D, these cannot be carried out in a sequence. So for example you can't ask for automatic repeated 60 second exposures. Is this possible with any other camera or software?

Longer B exposures are only possible on the 10D by using the Canon-specific cable release.


Hi Robin,

I control my 350D using Craig Starks DSLRShutter and a home built serial controlled shutter release (via a USB serial interface)
http://www.stark-labs.com/DSLR_Shutter.html
http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/dsl ... lease.html

You can also take a continuous series of up to 30 sec exposures without a computer by locking down the remote shutter release (A cheap one from E-Bay or it is straighforward to wire a switch up yourself) The mirror can also be locked up to minimise shake.

It set me wondering what the optimum exposure length would be. For sensitivity, shorter is better to minimise sky brightness (5 secs say?) but set against that is the dead time between exposures and the wear and tear on the camera if it has a mechanical shutter.

Robin

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:18 am 
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Dear Robin
I use a Canon 300D. I connect it to my indoors PC via 12 metres of cable (2 x5m plus 2m with a powered hub to boost the signal). I use Canon's "Remote Capture" software supplied as standard with the 300D, which allows 30 seconds maximum exposure. As far as I know in the camer's standard form I cannot use "bulb" setting to take exposures longer than 30 seconds using "remote capture" (although the add on tackle Robinastro' mentioned might enable me to do that, though possibly saving images on the cameras memory card rather than on my indoors PC ???).
Best wishes from Cliff


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:47 am 
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I've edited my earlier post because in fact the 40D will allow sequences of B exposures longer than 30 seconds. But the 10D or 300D won't, as Cliff says.

Robin S


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:32 pm 
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Cliff wrote:
(although the add on tackle Robinastro' mentioned might enable me to do that, though possibly saving images on the cameras memory card rather than on my indoors PC ???).


Hi Cliff,

DSLR shutter just controls the shutter remotely from the PC so the storage of images is normally done on the camera card, or alternatively onto the PC via the USB cable using the Canon capture software or other program.
I use a little program called FocusAssist
http://www.xmission.com/~jstanley/focusassist/
which dowloads images and displays them at full resolution on my laptop, which, as the name suggests, is useful for focussing. You can also decide whether and where to save the images. (It also gives remote control of the camera settings but this feature is a bit flakey on the 350D and can lock the camera up, necesitating battery removal to reset it)

EDIT: I see you use the 300D so FocusAssist will not work for you but DSLR Shutter should work ok

Robin

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:07 am 
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I use a Canon 350 and a home built exposure controller using a PalmV
Have caught quite a few meteors in light polluted skies
Cheers
Danny

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:16 am 
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Dave & Robin(_astro): General advice on meteor imaging (including camera requirements beyond the brief notes in my Feb 14 posting here, and suggestions for exposure timings) can be found in the 'Imaging Meteors' section of the Observing Meteors online booklet at:

http://www.popastro.com/sections/meteor/2009/OMVweb.htm

and on the Imaging Meteors - Advanced Notes page at:

http://www.popastro.com/sections/meteor ... photv1.htm .

The actual equipment will be down to the observer, within the limits of the essentials for what will allow useful meteor imaging. Hopefully, this topic will provide some pointers for such prospective observers over time.

Exposure limits are a matter of judgement and experience dependent on the camera and the sky clarity. Rather like film photography for meteors, there are options to be explored, and experimentation will be essential to get the best from whatever system you have available. The advantage of digital imaging is you can see more or less immediately what works better, rather than taking a series of different exposures and then waiting days for your film to be developed (if you remembered to load the camera...).

Alastair McBeath,
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
Meteor homepage: http://www.popastro.com/sections/meteor.htm
E-mail: <meteor@popastro.com> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:00 pm 
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Alastair McBeath wrote:
Rather like film photography for meteors, there are options to be explored, and experimentation will be essential to get the best from whatever system you have available.


Those who don't have access to a DSLR camera, but do have a webcam or a video camera and a video capture card, may like to have a look at the following web pages.

HandyAVI
UFOCapture

For a rather more specialized analogue-video/digital system see the MetRec web site.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:59 am 
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Having used a number of Canon DSLRs, and also a Nikon DSLR (a D70 which I recently sold) for meteor photography, I'd also have to agree with Robin that Canon DSLRs are more useful in general for imaging meteors.

I use the same technique (remote release/focus by laptop), and try to keep exposures as short as possible. Memory capacity is the main limiting factor. If I could have access to cheap 64GB CF cards, exposures at even relatively dark-sky would probably be no longer than 15 or 20 seconds (@ ISO 1600/ ~F1.8).

Whilst the newer Canons are a bit better in terms of high ISO noise, the real-world sensitivity of the sensors has not really changed much from what I can gather. This page here has some interesting data for the sensors of many DSLRs, and you can see in some cases that more recent sensors have worse light gathering ability (full well capacity) than older sensors: http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/ ... mary/#data


Canons are way ahead of the Nikons in terms of sensor performance also, although things may be swinging a little more Nikon's way over time.

I have found the Canon full frame sensors (1DsII and also the 5D) to be excellent at up to and including ISO 1600, but the Canon 20D/30D (they both have the same sensor) are acceptable.

Anyone considering buying a DSLR for meteor photography at this point in time would be better served buying a few second hand bodies rather than spending it on one of the newer bodies IMO.

I would recommend the Canon 20D, which can be had from Ebay for under £200 in excellent condition with a little patience.

My current meteor photography setup consists of 1DsII, 5D, 2x 20D, and a 30D, each with it's own cheap Chinese remote and dew heater. I hope to eventually have enough 20Ds to cover the entire sky, or at least a good part of it.

One trick I have found with older Canons that are not supposed to be able to use high capacity CF cards, is that you can, but you have to format the memory card in a Canon body which supports high capacity cards, or you can do it with a PC.

My 20Ds/30D all have 16GB CFs, which gives them around 8 hours of continuous 15 second exposures.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:04 am 
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robin_astro wrote:
Robin Scagell wrote:
While the Canon software does allow individual B exposures of longer than 30 seconds for the 40D, these cannot be carried out in a sequence. So for example you can't ask for automatic repeated 60 second exposures. Is this possible with any other camera or software?

Longer B exposures are only possible on the 10D by using the Canon-specific cable release.


Hi Robin,

I control my 350D using Craig Starks DSLRShutter and a home built serial controlled shutter release (via a USB serial interface)
http://www.etech.com/electronics-laser- ... c1202_1267
http://www.etech.com/

You can also take a continuous series of up to 30 sec exposures without a computer by locking down the remote shutter release (A cheap one from E-Bay or it is straighforward to wire a switch up yourself) The mirror can also be locked up to minimise shake.

It set me wondering what the optimum exposure length would be. For sensitivity, shorter is better to minimise sky brightness (5 secs say?) but set against that is the dead time between exposures and the wear and tear on the camera if it has a mechanical shutter.

Robin

One disadvantage of this method of radio meteor detection is that the detection is difficult to automate. Computers aren't good at distinguishing programme content from white noise. This is one reason that the majority of radio meteor observers use a scanner, or communications receiver, rather than a broadcast receiver.Reading it and take it on my life.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:10 pm 
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Shirley wrote:
One disadvantage of this method of radio meteor detection is that the detection is difficult to automate. Computers aren't good at distinguishing programme content from white noise. This is one reason that the majority of radio meteor observers use a scanner, or communications receiver, rather than a broadcast receiver.Reading it and take it on my life.


This thread is 2 years old and nothing to do with radio meteor detection.

I smell SPAM

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:45 pm 
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david entwistle wrote:
Alastair McBeath wrote:
Rather like film photography for meteors, there are options to be explored, and experimentation will be essential to get the best from whatever system you have available.


Those who don't have access to a DSLR camera, but do have a webcam or a video camera and a video capture card, may like to have a look at the following web pages.

SLA systems
UFOCapture

For a rather more specialized analogue-video/digital system see the MetRec web site.


These sights are awesome for those who cannot afford the big DSLR's and gives them access to some webcams etc. I have my son play around with these sights from time to time and he is able to access the webcam at his school. It is pretty cool stuff.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:57 am 
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In Japan both Nikon and Canon are way ahead of everyone else for market share of DSLR sales with Nikon leading ever so slightly for the past two years. I have been shooting with Canon for sometime but clearly Nikon is way ahead. That is my opinion.


Last edited by Fabian56 on Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

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