Lunar Photographs with a Digitalt Compact Camera

 
 


 

When full moon is approaching, many people grab their DSLR and their longest telephoto lens as is often seen on many photo sites. In a sense it is a pity that this interest is not nearly as great when the moon is waning or waxing. Because,  when the moon is full and the sun shines almost straight down on the moon, the shadows are short, the contrast is enormous and DETAILS very difficult to reproduce properly. It is significantly easier to catch the details when the sun stands low above the lunar horizon and shadows are correspondingly longer, as the picture above hopefully show .....

 

But now to the main purpose of this small note. Even if you "only" have a compact camera without interchangeable lenses, you may well be in the moon race anyway - if only you have a decent spotting scope. In my case (the examples I show here) an Olympus Camedia C50-Z - an almost "vintage" model from the year of  2002! - with 5 megapixels; a Tamron SP 350 mm f/5.6 mirror catadioptric lens, Model 06B, a 20mm eyepiece, Tamron Wide Field Tele-View Adapter, Model 02F designed for all Tamron Adaptall-2 lenses and, finally, now and then also a Tamron SP 2X Teleconverter, Model 01F.

 

The "theory" is simple: Focus your spotting scope carefully, hold the camera tight to the eyepiece and let the automatic take care of focus and exposure. However, when the moon is near new, it is better to have manual control of exposure time as the exposure meter does not work particularly well here. set-up can be seen here:



 

You will need relatively long exposure times (typically between 1 / 8 and 1 / 50 sec), so a tripod and a device to hold the camera strapped to spotting scope is a must. For shutter release you must use the self-timer or, as in my case, a remote, infrared remote control (Olympus RM-1).

 

And then it is just to shoot. As always, shoot many pictures and use only the best for further processing:



 

A simple exposure like this is in itself good enough to use as the basis for further image processing, but when the moon as here is quite low in the sky, you will get better better result by stacking some more. Here are the ten best of a series which have been stacked in Registax and processed further in PhotoImpact (: removal of chromatic aberration at the moon's limb and improvement of dynamic range with a camera model and scene-specific camera curve profile, which I made on a previous occasion):



 

Selected EXIF data might be of interest:

 

Make : OLYMPUS OPTICAL CO.,LTD

Model : X-2,C-50Z

Exposure Time : 1/15Sec

F-Number : F6,3

Exposure Program : Manual

ISO Speed Ratings : 160

Date Time Original : 2010:04:18 21:35:13

Max Aperture Value : F2,8

Focal Length : 23,40(mm)

Exposure Mode : Manual

White Balance : Auto

Digital Zoom Ratio : 120/100

 

Finally, I show a single (nearly) full moon picture taken in 2006. Here is the moon high in the sky, and even without stacking on gets a very good result:



 

Make : OLYMPUS OPTICAL CO.,LTD

Model : X-2,C-50Z

Exposure Time : 1/50Sec

F-Number : F4,8

Exposure Program : Program Normal

ISO Speed Ratings : 160

Date Time Original : 2006:04:10 22:38:03

Exposure Bias Value : EV0,0

Max Aperture Value : F2,8

Focal Length : 23,40(mm)

Exposure Mode : Auto

White Balance : Auto

Digital Zoom Ratio : 132/100

 

Why does this work so relatively well? Well, first we have a pretty good focal length in the system: (f-camera optics) x (f-spotting scope) / (f-eyepiece) = 409.5 mm. Moreover, this focal length on the C50-z's small sensor (1/1.8 "CCD) provides an equivalent focal length of just 2000 mm (!) for a full-frame camera. Finally, we have more pixels per millimeter on the small sensor (360 pixels per mm against approx. 165 pixels per mm for my Pentax K200D DSLR) and that is actually very beneficial for the very tiny details that the moon exhibits.



So, to every interested owner of a small compact camera, perhaps having become somewhat neglected over the years: HAVE FUN!
 

 

 

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Copyright 2010 - Steen G. Bruun