I tried to shoot the full moon last night using the subject telephoto lens set at 200 using manual focus. I took a number of photos using a tripod and ISO 200, 1/100, f11 and experimented with the shutter speeds. I could get some definition of the mares (dark spots) but they were blurred and became very fuzzy when the picture was enlarged a bit. I could not get a sharp focus, the lens was very sensitive to focusing and quickly went through the sweet spot if there was one. I tried to lock the mirrors up to minimize vibration but those shots weren't any better than just pressing the shutter using the view finder. Am I expecting too much from this lens? I expected to see some crater detail and better definition of the seas. Would more magnification give a sharper image or just a larger image? Would a doubler give a suitable image with this lens?
Mon 22-Nov-10 02:59 AM | edited Mon 22-Nov-10 03:02 AM by elec164
Welcome to Nikonians.
Well it could possibly be that you are expecting too much. Interestingly I just provided example images of the moon in thread over in the D7000 forum. The OP wanted opinions on image quality gain with cropping then printing using a D7000 versus a D90.
You dont mention what camera you have and your profile is blank. But being posted in this forum I assume it is one of the three. At best with the 200-mm focal length I estimate that you will be getting about 350 pixels on the diameter of the moon or at the worst about 290 pixels. With so few pixels you are going to be limited in the amount of detail you are going to be able to capture. It will also take good technique to get the most out of it. For instance when taking my sample images I used single point AF, spot metering, exposure delay mode, a remote release (ML-L3) and tri-pod.
As for a tele-converter, they generally will not perform well with consumer lenses.
Perhaps if you provide a sample image with the EXIF data that represents a 100% crop (actual pixels) for us to examine we may be able to help you further.
Thank you for your comments. My camera is the Nikon D5000. I forgot to mention the format of my shots. I was using Image Quality JPEG Normal and Image Size 4288x2848 (12.2M). Will Image Quality RAW give me more detail? I will try some of your suggestions and see if that improves my results.
Being that the moon is mainly gray scale I would not believe there would be any advantage in using an NEF as opposed to an in camera JPEG as long as you got the exposure spot on. Having an NEF would allow more extensive edits without artifacts due to insufficient color depth. Although I would probably use JPEG large/fine myself.
To get the most resolution possible from your camera and fill the small size of the frame you would need about 1700mm focal length.
Personally I would not stop down to f/11 when imaging the moon. At that distance DOF is not an issue so you do not need to stop down. What is an issue is lens quality. Consumer variable focal length lenses of today are much better than their older brethren, but generally still perform better stopped down a bit and not wide open. Generally f/8 is considered the sweet spot of most lenses. So I would take some shots wide open then stop down a few notches and take some more. But I would probably not go beyond f/8. Alan also brings up a good point about filters. I personally would also remove the NC filter. Even the best grade filters can degrade image quality.
In another forum I participate in there is often a discussion about using a protection filter, lens quality and reach affect. In response one of the members suggested we all image the moon and provide our results to compare lens and camera models. He put together a page on his site about this topic. Perhaps you may find it of interest. Heres the link.
My tripod is a pretty beefy Bogen 3035/3036 it is marked with both numbers, 3036 is a sticker on one of the legs). Since I am tall I had the legs fully extended and the post cranked uo as high as it would go so that it was comfortable for me to get under the camera tilted up and aimed at the moon. I am sure that there must have been some vibration present as I did not use timed or remote release.
My recollection of the view through the viewfinder was not sharp. The lens went through the focus point pretty easily without any feeling of this is the place! Very little motion of the focusing ring made the image go in and out of focus.
I plan to try some of the ideas presented here on my next shoot:
ISO 200 Single point AF Spot metering Exposure delay mode Remote release Tripod Remove lens filter f-8 Varying shutter speeds
Thank you to all who have contributed to my 'education'. Your responses are greatly appreciated.
AHA! By raising the center column you actually were shooting from a monopod on top of a tripod. Try not to extend it at all, use mirror-lock-up ("MLU") and a cable release, or at least the timer and exposure delay mode.
Here is my shot of the full moon from October. I used my D40 with a 70-300 mm on a tripod. I get about 330 pixels of the moon. My photo is sharper than you might expect because I used a focus stacking technique to combine multiple images pulling the best detail from each to yield a composite image that attempts to cancel some of the varying distortion that results from atmospheric turbulence. You also will get a softer image when the moon is closer to the horizon and the light needs to pass through the air at a greater angle. Overhead shots will reduce this effect but not eliminate it. Keep trying...
D40 F/8 1/320s ISO 200 Nikkor 70-300mm VR off Tripod, Remote
I would have been happy with your shot! Can you tell me where to learn more about the photo stacking technique and the software used to do it? Did you use JPEG or RAW and what was your f-stop and exposure?
I tried to upload the best of my shots but the attachment was too large and I don't know what I need to do to make it smaller. I put my best moon shot in my gallery, it was the clearest of about 40 shots that ranged from white to black and most were fuzzy. This one was Matrix metered focus (manual) 1/2000, f5.6, ISO 200, 180 mm, JPEG Normal 4288x2848, Bogen 3035 tripod with post fully extended, conventional shutter release, kit lens AF-S 55-200 mm 1:4,5.6G ED DX VR
I would suggest that you go manual on this including the focus. I sometimes let the camera auto focus on the moon but then switch the camera or lens to MF to leave it where it just locked onto the focus. Matrix metering will leave the moon badly over exposed and I'm not sure even spot metering would work. The moon is actually a difficult subject to shoot as it is small, moving, and very bright compared to the sky in general.
This is a single shot image of the 'Blue' Moon. It was not as good as it should because of windy, cloudy and dusty that evening at home, but I hope it shows what a sturdy tripod can do. Made from a Series 3 Gitzo tripod, with a D2X and 80-400mm @ 400mm, ISO 320, f/9.5, 1/250 sec
No expert on this stuff, but I saved your image, then zoomed in with a viewer. The pixelation around the outside edge was very noticeable. Within the actual detail of the moon it was difficult to differentiate, but obviously still there based on the edge pixels. I think you have reached the limit of your equipment without a longer lens.