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Equipment: Accessories

Telescope and Eye-pieces SkyWindow and Binoculars filters accessories

Telrad finderHomemade Dew Heater TAl/Meade Eyepiece/filter case and table
Digital camera Nikon Coolpix 775 / 4500Catsperch observing chair

Nikon Coolpix 775 and 4500; ScopeTronix and Vixen adaptors.

Nikon Coolpix 775
Downsides Nikon Coolpix 775
Nikon Coolpix 4500
Results with the Coolpix 4500
Fotoalbum of my digital camera setup (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures)

Nikon Coolpix 775

About a year ago I started digital photography of the moon, using a Nikon Coolpix 775. I've got some very rewarding results following a very simple method:

  1. Look through the telescope eyepiece and focus the image as good as possible.
  2. Mount the camera on a tripod and manoeuvre the camera lens as close as possible to the eyepiece.
  3. Activate the camera in auto mode.
  4. Switch off the flashlight.
  5. Activate the self-timer.
  6. Press the shutter-release button to take the image.

After 5 seconds the image is taken. Follow these links to see the results.

Lunar eclipse, May 16th, 2003
Lunar eclipse, November 8th, 2003
Lunar observing session, May 10th, 2003


Nikon Coolpix 775

Downsides Nikon Coolpix 775

However, there were a few downsides to the Nikon Coolpix 775.

1. Distance eyepiece-camera lens too wide
I sometimes got stray light onto my images so I bought some adaptors to connect the camera to my Vixen Lanthanums (Vixen digtital camera adaptor) and 32mm Televue plossl (ScopeTronix digital camera adaptor). This way I could shield off the eyepiece from any stray light. Most adaptors work with 28mm threads. These adaptors cannot be threaded onto the CP 775 directly. You have to use another special adaptor from Nikon, to make this work. I bought this extra adaptor and connected it to the Vixen / Scopetronix digital camera adaptors, but then another problem occurred. The distance between the eyepiece and the camera lens became too wide. The pictures I took were inferior to those I took using the simple tripod method.

2. No multiple shots
I wanted to take multiple shots with the coolpix 775, so I could use the images for stacking. You have to press down the shutter-release button and hold it to take multiple shots. This way the camera cannot be held perfectly still. A remote control would give you the possibility to take multiple shots without touching the camera itself, but there is no remote control for the 775.

3. Very limited exposure time
If you want to shoot deep sky images, you will need a camera with a bulb setting, allowing long time exposures. The CP 775 has no bulb option.

As you can see I had a few good reasons to buy a new digital camera that could be used for astro photography. After reading a lot of reviews and online articles I went for the Nikon Coolpix 4500.


Nikon Coolpix 4500

This camera eliminates all the downsides of the 775 mentioned above.

1. Short distance between lens and eyepiece
It has a standard 28mm thread right around the lens, so the adaptors from Vixen and Scope Tronix thread into the camera perfectly. The distance between the lens and the eyepiece is almost zero. Follow this link to look at the setup of both the adaptors and the camera. (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures. Use the previous, next and top buttons to navigate through the album).

2. Multiple shots using remote control
You can get a remote control for the CP 4500. With this you can zoom in/out and press/hold the shutter-release button for as long as you like, without touching the camera. I have the Nikon MC-EU1 remote cord, but there are several others on the market. The Nikon cord sometimes refuses to work. You have to unplug it from the camera, but after plugging it in again, it works fine.

3. Long time exposures possible
The camera also has a bulb setting allowing long time exposures up to 5 minutes, so you can use the camera not only for shooting images of the moon and planets, but also for deepsky photography.


Results with the Coolpix 4500

Until now I have used the camera only a few times on the moon and the planets. The first results are promising. Follow these links to see some results.

3-day old moon observing session
9-day old moon observing session

You will also find all the basic data on how these images where made. Every now and again visit my Astro-weblog. There you will find the most recent images I made.

If you are a digital astro photographer, or planning to start with digital astro photography, join digital_astro, the still digital camera astrophotography discussion group. A group for new and accomplished digital camera astrophotographers.

There you can ask questions, share your results, enter competitions, read and download interesting files and documents etc.


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