Canon EF-S 18-55 lens for astrophotos

Canon 1000d & astrophotography

With the 18-55 mm lens mounted on the camera, running at 18 mm the results are somewhat varied. The images were all post processed using Raw Therapee and stacked using Siril. You can find a step by step process in the tutorial section.

One of the limiting factors is the low ISO performance of the 1000d at only ISO 1600. To mitigate this I will likely add a EOS 1100d or 1200d  body to the collection, as the increase in ISO performance and improved pixel density of the newer bodes will definitely help.

Summer is never the best time to image the night sky here in New Zealand as most of the areas of interest lie very near to the south and western horizons. Add to this the sky darkness is not really at maximum until well after midnight, just adds to the problems. The summer evening skies here retain sky-glow well after sunset set. To our east is the city of Hamilton and light pollution is now becoming severe in the eastern sky which at present holds Orion and Canis Major rising above the horizon.

In this first series of images the most prominent subject was the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The first image is a tiff image saved as a Jpeg to reduce the file size. This is how a single Raw file looks after processing prior to stacking.

MAGELLANIC2.jpg

The following image is  the jpeg output from Siril after stacking.

large magellanic.jpg

The image doesn’t look a great deal different from the original but is a stack of 8 images, run with rejection in the stacking to eliminate any image too different from the others. Noticeable too is the borders which are black as no information is available as the stack slightly rotates each image. In the post processing these will be cropped.

large magellanic crop.jpg

The above image is a crop and further processing of the stacked image. One thing that is quickly evident is how colour is not well recorded at these light levels, this is due to several things, primarily how the Canon sensor isn’t overly colour sensitive at high ISO with very low light levels. The lens itself isn’t as critically sharp in this environment and the 230,000 dot LCD screen isn’t refined enough to determine really fine focus. That being said for a 10 year old sensor with  low ISO ability it did pretty well despite its limitations and no doubt had I bought this camera new at the time I would have been reasonably pleased with the results. Of course a much better lens would change a good amount of the issues currently experienced.

Better results would also be yielded in winter with much darker skies and the subjects in better positions above the horizon.

In case you thought that there was a lack of details in the image heres a somewhat over processed image  showing just what is hidden in the sky glow and low latitude of the subject.

MAGELLANIC-EDIT 2.jpg

Again this is a crop, but in this image the excessive sky glow hasn’t been eliminated, but rather slightly reduced. Had this image been taken closer to winter it would reveal much darker skies and more detail.

The other issue that is seen with the images is a certain amount of false colour artifacting which wasn’t present in the XA2, and again shows the progress being made in sensor technology.

As a comparison the next image was taken with the XA2 and the 16-50 mm kit lens at 50 mm and shows both the large and small Magellanic clouds. ISO 3200 @ 8 seconds. Note some star trailing ( or distortion ) upper left and the Large Magellanic cloud is bracketed by a pair of meteors. This image is a good example of how good the Fuji lens is and how noise free at ISO 3200 the sensor is as well. Colour in the image is  better handled than in the older Canon. This image was taken  11 May 2016 in late Autumn when we get some of the nicest nights for astro work.

All that said the cropped Canon image above isn’t to far removed from the Fuji results and as I get better with t he Canon  hopefully so will the images.

DSCF4742 XA2.jpg
Fujis XA2, ISO 3200  @ 50 mm fl, 8 second exposure.

More to come…. Orion rising and the Southern Cross almost at lowest point.

 

 

 

 

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The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens

Following on from my previous post, is an old camera cost effective? I would have to say yes. While the 70-300 mm lens isn’t stabilised it is reasonably good on a tripod but how about its little brother the 18-55?

The auto focus is snappy and hits its mark almost every time, low light being a little less reliable.

That being said I have been quite pleased with the lens in general terms. The following image was taken using its macro ability, with the macro selected from the control ring, the lens will focus at a reasonably close distance. The specs say approx 9 inches minimum distance but it seems it can get a tad closer than that.

IMG_2934

 

Shot at f7 @ 1/100 using ISO 200 at 55 mm fl detail is good , colour is accurate and there is a pleasingly blurred background evident, with a thin depth of field, much better than one might expect from a kit lens. Camera set on Macro setting.

Using the lens without the macro setting also yields nice images. The following image was taken on an overcast day and the image was underexposed by 2 stops as I had inadvertently left the Ev setting at -2 EV as the previous shots were taken in very harsh light. While badly underexposed I was able to bring some life to the RAW image in post processing. Notable too is that even at f5.6 the depth of field is less well defined and is a good indication of just what the Macro setting of the camera achieves when switched on.

IMG_3025edit.jpg

ISO 400 @ f5.6 with 1/320 sec using 55 mm fl

While not the fastest or sharpest lens Canon has, nonetheless it does aquit itself reasonably well, and in good lighting conditions certainly can produced pleasing results.

Compared to the Fuji XC 16-50 mm kit lens however, it isn’t in the same class. The Fuji XC kit lenses are very good, which is typical of Fuji’s lens lineup, even in the lower tier kit lenses which as an added bonus are all stabilised, something that Canon still fails to do even in their latest entry level offerings.

The question then is how good does it perform as an astrophotography lens? More on this subject to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is an old camera cost effective?

Photography on a very limited budget.

I know some will feel that buying “Old Technology” is a step backwards when it comes to camera gear. Fortunately I dont suffer greatly from GAS ( Gear Acquisition Syndrome ). For some having the next latest and greatest is a must. I can understand a professional wanting to update their gear but for most of us, perhaps its not so important.

So can you really nab a bargain and get something that will last a couple of years while being budget friendly. Well in my case that is definitely what I got. After checking on Trademe to see what was on sale , it was soon apparent that there were plenty of 1000d’s for sale as well as 1200 & 1100d’s. All entry level cameras, most priced between 3 & 4 hundred dollars, some as two lens kits and some just with one.

For a good second hand entry level 2 lens kit I would be comfortable paying up to $400.00 providing the shutter count is low, meaning the camera hasn’t had a lot of work and should remain operational for a long period of time. How do you know if the price is right? Generally if the price is under 60% of a new model you are getting value. Better if the cost is 40-50% of a new model or in my case approx 20%. This is based on current prices from one of the largest camera retailers here, Photowarehouse 

The price of a new 1300d with a single lens is over three times what I paid for my used Canon and I have to say I was lucky to get it a that price, but you should not be put off buy the prices as there are always bargains to be had if not on Trademe and you dont mind waiting for a week or so E-Bay also has some substantial bargains as well.

Now back to the central question, is it cost effective and the answer is yes, provided you don’t absolutely need the latest innovations. For example the 1000d only goes up to ISO 1600 which might make some folks panic, but remember that 8 years ago ISO 1600 was what everyone was wanting, and there is only the odd time when I might want more,  particularly if I’m doing astrophotography. However there are a lot of stunning astrophotos taken with the little Canon, and I will be testing and documenting this process as well.

In my case the 1000d is a good little shooter that hasn’t taken a lot to get to grips with, bearing in mind that this also is my first DSLR. In the past I have used my film SLR’s and mirrorless cameras and the transition is straight forward with little fuss. Using the Fuji bridgecameras is  very close  to the process when using a DSLR only the DSLR has much better image quality.

To date my expenditure has been:

Canon 1000d twin lens kit ( used) $200.00 NZD

New 16 gig Sandisk SD card $17.00 NZD

New aftermarket battery charger $16.34 freight incl.

New aftermarket shutter release $23.00 freight incl.

New aftermarket LP-E5 battery $30.00 freight incl.

Total to date = $286.34 NZD.

Thats just under $200.00 US to set up a starter DSLR package. It may not have all the latest upgrades but it will still provide a good starting point to build on and lets you allocate funds for some better lenses, whether that be a stabilised zoom or a couple of nice used primes, so again I would say its definitely cost effective. You may also find you have some accessories that can be used with your new camera. In my case I have a number of filters and macro filters that will fit the Canon lenses, and of course I already had a very good tripod as well as a very functional bag that the camera came in.

 

 

Canon EF 70-300 F4-5.6

The standard 70-300 mm kit lens that came with the camera isn’t image stabilised,  therefore I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope as to how useful this lens would be when handheld.

Our ever present moggy just had to know what was going on and so presented a target of opportunity. Never one to sit still, this was going to be a bit of a challenge especially as I was using the lens at the 300 mm setting. Knowing that the lens would be a little dark at the long end I selected ISO 400 and dialled up the Ev to +2 and snapped off RAW+Jpeg combos. The two images you see are both processed from the RAW file using ShowFoto.

A little bit of PP work and I had a couple of pleasant shots to finish with. I have to say that I am impressed with the apparent sharpness of the lens and the relatively narrow focal plane even at f5.6. The bokeh is really quite good as the green in the background is our lawn which was about 6 inches tall and looking pretty shabby.

The two images above are taken with the EF lens and the distance to the subject is approx 3 meters ( 9 feet ). Be warned that these are the full file sizes at approx 19 meg each so they make take a while to download if you dont have a reasonably fast connection.

This next image is one for comparison, taken using the Fuji XA2 with the 16-55 mm kit lens working at f4.5.  Distance to the subject is about the same as for the previous images. The small Fuji lens does a pretty good job here too.

 

dscf6031.jpg

The next two images were taken using the same EF lens working at the same zoom. The distance to the subject is approx 9 meters, again handheld and again at 300 mm.

The first of these images is taken with Ev-0 and the lens stopped down to f 8  & f 10 (second image) to help improve detail and contrast. The second image is a Jpeg direct from the camera and again processed in ShowFoto. The same applies for the first image as well. Both images were cropped to remove approx 50% of the original image. Both images were shot at ISO 400 and 1/400 sec. This helped a great deal to stabilize the image as I’m not the steadiest holder of a camera and suspect I never will be.

For a non stabilised lens, using the settings I have outlined the results were not unpleasant, and show a good deal of texture and fine detail and very little noise. I printed both the images of the Kingfisher on gloss 5 x 7 photo paper using my Epson  L365 and the results were very good, and I have no doubt that a print at A4 size would look just as good.