Leica M's and Astrophotography

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by waynecrider, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Any possibility of using a Leica M for astrophotography? Are there connectors available?
     
  2. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    It's a huge mismatch to try to use a rangefinder for this. Get a used mechanical SLR with Mirror Lock up to do this. I have a Pentax Spotmatic with a busted meter that I'll sell you for $10 plus shipping. There are numerous other similar old mechanical SLR cameras that also cost next to nothing, and are FAR better suited to astrophotography than any rangefinder is.
     
  3. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I've seen (and own) a Leica screw mount to T adapter. I don't recall having seen a Leica M to T adapter, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. To focus a telescope using a Leica rangefinder, you'd need to use a Visoflex to turn it into an SLR, which is more bulky and expensive than many manual mechanical SLRs that are preferred for astrophotography. The common spec for astrophotography is an SLR that has mirror lock-up, not too much bulk, a bright finder, and a shutter that works without batteries on bulb or time exposure. LEDs in the finder can leak onto the image with time exposures, and batteries can die quickly with long exposures and cooler night time temps.

    If you're shooting wide field, like whole constellations, a Leica style rangefinder can work wonderfully for focal lengths up to 135mm. A brightline 1:1 hot shoe finder for 50mm and longer focal lengths allows you to see many more stars than a typical SLR, and makes composing much easier. One of the first things I did with a C/V 75mm f:2.5 was constellation photography, and I was astonished at how well it did on stars. Pinpoint light sources across the field tell you a lot about a lens.

    For more info, including camera choice, look for books on astrophotography by Covington or Reeves.

    http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/astro/index.html
    http://www.robertreeves.com/ (look for wide-field astrophotography)

    Both have books out on digital as well, so look for the books on analog methods if that's your interest.

    Lee
     
  4. budrichard

    budrichard Member

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    I suggest you pick up and read one of the popular Astronomy magazines to view the latest in scopes and cameras available to amatures. Film Astrophotogrphy has long since been supplanted by digital for very good reasons chiefly being sensitivity of the media and chilling of the detector plus instant results and analysis capabilities. In any event an M platform is the last thing i would use.
    Do what I do and tune into the various scientific websites and view thier results which are available and spectacular. -Dick
     
  5. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Well,, my thinking was more about the weight of the M camera being lighter and all and not so much about the real needs of focusing. Being I've got three mechanical cameras with mirror lockup I guess thats the way to go.

    I understand the digital possibilities and would rather buy a better scope then a scope and camera. So I'll look around online and in the magazines and read about whats in my price range; Unless someone makes a suggestion in the $400-$700 range.

    Whats the practical nature of using a telephoto lens like a 400mm with perhaps a 2x teleconverter?

    Thanks for the help. I'm determined to get setup this summer.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2009
  6. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Telescopes can change focus with temperature, so even if you think you've configured a good mechanical stop at infinity, it will change when the temperature does. BTW, some SLR telephotos, and I believe many of the autofocus lenses can focus past infinity, so if you rack them all the way in to the "infinity stop", you may be out of focus past infinity.

    There's a new item around to help with visual focus, called a Bahtinov mask, which creates a set of diffraction spikes that can be used for fine visual focusing. Google it. You can purchase or you can make your own.

    Lee
     
  7. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Just from reading on the Jerry Lodriguss site, it looks as tho that I'll have to save for a decent mount as well as the telescope. I might have to sell the Leica to help finance things. :surprised:
     
  8. Someonenameddavid

    Someonenameddavid Member

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  9. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    >Whats the practical nature of using a telephoto lens like a 400mm with perhaps a 2x teleconverter?

    That will double exposure times, the optical quality if the 2X converter may be questionable, and at that focal length [800mm] some kind of careful guiding will be essential or the images will show stars trailing [just like with a telescope].

    Over my years of reading Sky and Telescope in the years before CCDs, I do not recall recommendations to use teleconverters.
     
  10. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Correction: a 2x convert quadruples required exposure time, it doubles linear size, spreading the same available light over 4x the area (even if you don't count loss from the extra glass).

    Lee
     
  11. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    You never came across Barlow lenses?
     
  12. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    Correct - a Barlow lens is just another name for a 2X teleconverter.
     
  13. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

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    Good morning, Wayne;

    While I have a "GoTo" telescope also, I am now trying to set up a fairly good "German Equatorial Mount" for use in astrophotography. It will easily work with either film or a digital sensor camera. I am doing this for the learning experience, mainly. It would probably be more cost effective to just buy a mount already set up for this work, than to make the conversion myself, but that probably would not be as much fun.

    A workable tracking mount for astrophotography -- not just visual observing -- will start at about $ 2500. A really good one such as the Software Bisque Paramount ME will be about $ 10,000. That is for a mount for the optical system; it is not the price for a telescope. These prices may seem unusual until you remember that this is a precision electro-mechanical system that must work precisely for hours during a long exposure in temperatures that may well be below freezing. I also want to build an auto-guiding system for this mount -- that is actually my main goal. I had hope of having this ready for use this summer, but they will not be shipping some of the parts to me until the end of June, so it is going to take longer to get it done anyway. So many things seem to work out that way. Well, the skies are more clear in the wintertime anyway, aren't they, and the viewing time is longer each night then. At this time, approaching the Summer Solstice, the stars really do not come out until almost 2300 or 11:00 o'clock at night our time.

    One group I can recommend is RoboScope on Yahoo Groups. I am learning a lot there.

    Others have provided references to books on astrophotography. Getting your telescope to do what you want it to do while trying to take photographs of the stars is an entirely different and separate challenge.
     
  14. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Alternately, you could get your feet wet with something like the AstroTrac TT320X (google it) and an SLR with a long telephoto for some wider field stuff.

    Or for the ultimate in bang for the buck, make your own Scotch, Haig, or barn-door mount. Dave Trott's variation has better guiding for longer times.

    Lee
     
  15. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Thanks Ralph and Lee. Interesting project your doing there Ralph. Are you going to blog it?

    In my research to get a setup hopefully by years end I'm coming to appreciate the whole genre of astro-photography. It certainly isn't for the faint hearted. Unfortunately it appears as concerns camera systems a D might be the way to go.

    My brother has a 4-5" reflector telescope out in AZ. I would like to get a clockwork mount for it for observational use, but I've not studied the abilities of the scope for photography since I'm in FL. We did at one time observe Saturn's rings which was neat when it was here in FL, land of ever present clouds in the summer. Once I'm out there in Dec I'll be looking to mount it on a German Eq mount till the funds are available for a better scope.
     
  16. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Apropos mounts: are there cheapish clockwork (don't mind if it is electric either) mounts available that anyone can recommended?
    The AstroTrac TT320X looks fine, but the price tag ...
     
  17. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Here are the names of other products of which I'm aware that are designed for wide field astrophotography:

    Purus - German made mechanical clockworks drive - out of production AFAIK, and in the lower price ranges - needs to run for a full minute without adjustment to reach a correct stable drive rate before the exposure is begun

    Byers Cam Trak - discontinued, sought after, made by a premier maker of professional telescope drive gears - electronic

    Kenko Skymemo - still available new for about the same price as the AstroTrac TT320X - electronic

    Kajers 7700 - discontinued AFAIK - electronic

    Takahashi Teegul Sky Patrol - available around US$1000 - electronic

    Astro Kits ( http://www.company7.com/library/astrokit.html ) - out of production, few sold, around $125 new - 4 AA batteries or DC supply

    Orion Min-EQ Tabletop EQ mount
    http://www.telescope.com/control/pr...pods/~pcategory=accessories/~product_id=09055
    - needs one of two available electric motor drives (with or without hand correction paddle) to track for photography. Base unit about US$60, and motor setups at US$45, or US$73 with hand paddle.

    Book:
    Jim Ballard - Handbook for Star Trackers: Making and Using Star Tracking Camera Platforms, Sky Publishing - appears to be out of print, but used copies around

    Of course you can also find a number of new or used equatorial telescope mounts that have, or can be fitted with drive motors. You'll have to do your own research on the suitability of these mounts for photography. The important features are some way of polar aligning accurately, and a drive system with a proper tracking rate and as little periodic error as possible. (Google 'periodic error' so that I don't have to write a long explanation here.)

    I have used a hand built straight bolt drive, an Astro Kits motorized curved bolt drive, and a Synta EQ-6 telescope mount for my own wide field astrophotography, all with very good results when used within their limits. The Astro Kits and Synta work well with up to 15-20 minute exposures with my 180 f:4 and shorter lenses. That's getting to the limit for sky fog where I typically shoot anyway.

    The current trend in amateur astrophotography is DSLRs with computer driven and timed multiple short exposures (up to about 5-10 minutes), then stacking in the computer.

    Lee
     
  18. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Thanks!

    Lots of leads to follow.
    The Orion looks good, and quite affordable.
     
  19. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I should add that much of this kind of equipment trades in the classifieds at astromart.com , where people know what they're selling and buying. That and the rest of the internet killed the former print classifieds newsletter, The Starry Messenger. Some equipment reviews can be found at cloudynights.com, which often include comments on suitability for astrophotography. Sky & Telescope also publishes equipment reviews, and may be in your local library. They have a yearly index in the Dec. issue, and I think 6 month indices in both June and Dec issues, perhaps depending on publishing date. They also used to have a Gleanings for ATMs column, ATM = Amateur Telescope Maker.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 20, 2009
  20. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Thanks again!
    I will have a look, read reviews first, than see what is on offer.
     
  21. budrichard

    budrichard Member

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    A fact often overlooked by amatuer Astronomers is the viewing conditions where the are located. Much of the US is now covered by smog that makes the 'Milky Way' invisable and renders the use of high cost equipment a waste of time and money. One also has to understand that the atmosphere sets the resolving limit on any scope and after a certain standard is reached all you obtain for increased cost is increased light gathering and not ability to see finer detail. So unless you live on a mountain top, I stand by my assertion that one can puruse the various scientific sites to see some truly awesome astrophotography which is what I do and the cost is minimal.-Dick