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DSLR Astrophotography Untracked

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Posted August 6, 2015

For astrophotography with a DSLR it is common practice to set the camera on top of an equatorial mount or other tracking device. This way, Earth’s rotation gets compensated and long exposures of star fields and the Milky Way become possible.

Image shows the North America Nebula NGC 7000 imaged with  the method described. The image is noise free, well saturated and was acquired  without any tracking device. Image credit: Project Nightflight

Image shows the center of the Milky Way imaged with the method described. The image is noise free, well saturated and was acquired without any tracking device. Image credit: Project Nightflight

After a series of extended experiments we are now able to present a simple method for DSLR astrophotography where an equatorial mount or a sky tracker is no longer necessary. All that is needed is one of the newer DSLR models that allows high ISO settings, a tripod and a remote release timer.

The full article, including a proven workflow, is available for free download here (link).

In short, the basic idea of untracked DSLR astrophotography is actually quite simple. Shoot a high number of similar exposures at very high ISO ratings and keep the single exposures so short that no tracking is needed. The individual frames are then digitally combined in a stacking program, where the computer virtually does the tracking. The resulting picture shows faint details and is free of the noise that normally comes with the high ISO setting.

As far as we can tell, there are a lot of possible applications for this method of untracked DSLR astrophotography. To name only a few:

– The technique is so simple that even beginners to astrophotography will easily master it. Therefore, it is no longer mandatory to buy an equatorial mount or sky tracker to get started with astrophotography.

– Instrument requirements of untracked DSLR astrophotography are minimal. Photographers who want to travel light to dark locations will have less weight to carry with them.

– The method is ideal in all situations when the photographer doesn’t want to hassle with the complexity that comes with the use of an equatorial mount or tracking device.

Source: Project Nightflight

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