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06-06-2012, 10:02 PM   #1
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Best lens recommendations for night sky photography and long exposure < $100?

I have a Pentax K-r and I am very much into long exposures and want to get into taking pictures of the night sky with clarity. I've been looking around and trying to research on my own and check out prices of lens. From what I've looked at and asked other photographers who take pictures of the night sky, they use a wide angle lens but they also have very expensive cameras. So is my thinking that a wide angle lens is the way to go for night photography and long exposures? I have a small budget as an 18 year old, and I'm looking to spend less than $100 if I can for a quality wide angle lens. Can someone point towards some lens in my price range and suggest any possible brands that they know are good for what I'm looking at?


Thanks in advance,
Dominic

06-06-2012, 10:33 PM   #2
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Hi Dominic

Hope you get a few replies.
Do you have a tripod? That might be a better way to go and use the timer to take the photo.

You never know your luck now that i mentioned it, but someone reading this in CA might send you an old lens? I hope that is in the forum rules.

Best of luck
06-06-2012, 10:35 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
Hi Dominic

Hope you get a few replies.
Do you have a tripod? That might be a better way to go and use the timer to take the photo.

You never know your luck now that i mentioned it, but someone reading this in CA might send you an old lens? I hope that is in the forum rules.

Best of luck
Yes, I do have a tripod, and a pretty stable and good one. Sorry I forgot to mention that.

And thanks for the reply
06-06-2012, 10:45 PM   #4
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So you're just using the kit lens? I hope I am wrong but I don't think you're going to get anything better than what you have for that price.. I've been 'stuck' with my kit lens for 4 the four years I've been into photography because I haven't had the expendable income to upgrade to something better (in the wide angle department).. I've kept my eye out over that time for such as deal as you desire but have never caught one.. (My definition being anything wider than 28mm) Until then, we make the most of it that we can.. ;-)

06-06-2012, 11:12 PM   #5
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If you get lucky you can score a Zenitar 16mm f2.8 fisheye (m42 mount) for about 100$. Then you have to add M42-K converter. That would give you wider angle probably with better IQ then the kit lens, for slightly over your budget. The fish-eye effect is not so exagregated on APS-C size senzor.

Here is review of the lens Zenitar 16mm f2.8 Fisheye Lens Reviews - Russian and Zenitar Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
06-06-2012, 11:52 PM   #6
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By "night sky", do you mean you wish to photograph the milky way???

If so, the kit lens will suffice with image stacking:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/102259-nature-my-budget-...ay-galaxy.html
06-07-2012, 09:47 AM   #7
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Night doesn't change the basics of focal length. If you want a wide chunk of the sky, you want a wide angle lens. if you want a narrow chunk of the sky - focus on just one constellation, say - you want a telephoto. And if you want individual nebulae and so forth to small/faint to be seen with the naked eye, you need a telescope or similar equipment.

I agree with those who say that assuming you do want wide angle, there is no reason not to simply use the kit lens (unless you want wider still, in which case the Zenitar 16 is probably the only cheap ultra-wide to consider).
06-07-2012, 10:27 AM   #8
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I have done some long exposure work with the Kit 18-55 and have had fantastic results. I think with proper technique you will find it is a great lens for night photography...







06-07-2012, 04:17 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
By "night sky", do you mean you wish to photograph the milky way???

If so, the kit lens will suffice with image stacking:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/102259-nature-my-budget-...ay-galaxy.html
Wow, that is phenomenal. I will definitely have to try the stacking format. I don't have photoshop. Do you know of any free alternatives to do this technique?

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Night doesn't change the basics of focal length. If you want a wide chunk of the sky, you want a wide angle lens. if you want a narrow chunk of the sky - focus on just one constellation, say - you want a telephoto. And if you want individual nebulae and so forth to small/faint to be seen with the naked eye, you need a telescope or similar equipment.

I agree with those who say that assuming you do want wide angle, there is no reason not to simply use the kit lens (unless you want wider still, in which case the Zenitar 16 is probably the only cheap ultra-wide to consider).
Thanks for the advice. I'm still learning about it all and appreciate your words.

QuoteOriginally posted by mtroute Quote
I have done some long exposure work with the Kit 18-55 and have had fantastic results. I think with proper technique you will find it is a great lens for night photography...





These are great. Checked out your EXIF and I will definitely use these settings in the future. Thanks for the comments
06-07-2012, 04:24 PM   #10
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I haven't tried, but the Kit lens at 18mm w/ K-r pretty good high iso performance you should be able to get decent night sky images.
I use K5 with 16-50 at 16mm f2.8, I can get good milky way, you should be able to get decent one if you pump the iso to 6400, 18mm @f3.5.
06-07-2012, 04:31 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by LFLee Quote
I haven't tried, but the Kit lens at 18mm w/ K-r pretty good high iso performance you should be able to get decent night sky images.
I use K5 with 16-50 at 16mm f2.8, I can get good milky way, you should be able to get decent one if you pump the iso to 6400, 18mm @f3.5.
I seem to notice a lot of noise that high when I zoom in. But I'm learning about new tools to download to get rid of noise but can't afford those options. Do you know of any free noise reduction software that is good?
06-07-2012, 06:10 PM   #12
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I can't answer about NR warez. AFAIK the best way to reduce high-ISO noise is to keep the ISO low. How to shoot a long exposure of night sky? With an equatorial telescope mount. For US$75 at a garage sale, I got a Meade 4505 with digital-drive equatorial mount. I'm considering playing with it, to see if I can replace the scope with my K20D.

If an equatorial mount isn't coming your way, shoot wide-sky pictures with the widest lens possible. I'll second the recommendation of the Zenitar 16/2.8. Consider: the 1/FL rule says sharp shots with shorter lenses can be had with shorter exposures. The math applies to rectilinear lenses, not fisheyes, where we should consider the AOV (angle of view), not the focal length. My fishy Zenitar 16/2.8 has an AOV equivalent to 12mm rectilinear. Thus if I metered an exposure for T seconds for a 50mm lens, the Zenitar shutter speed would be ~T/4 (50/12) not ~T/3 (50/16). Which is a long way of saying that you'll get pretty sharp shots with the Zenitar at f/2.8 and 20-30 seconds at fairly low ISO.

Another recommendation: get out of Sacramento. I'm at 3500ft / 1050m up the Kit Carson Pass road, and even at this elevation, light pollution sucks. Get up into high country. Good luck!

Last edited by RioRico; 06-07-2012 at 10:12 PM.
06-07-2012, 07:21 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote

Another recommendation: get out of Sacramento. I'm at 3500ft / 1050m up the Kit Carson Pass road, and even at this elevation, light pollution sucks. Get up into high country. Good luck!
Very true here. I'm gonna be going to Nevada City to camp and there is not much light pollution up there and I can see the milky way and all the stars on a moonless night.
06-07-2012, 08:01 PM   #14
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Oh yes, definitely, if you're looking to spend a chunk of money on something aid astrophotography, a proper equatorial mount (and, ideally, a clock drive) is the way to go. $100 spent on this will get you much farther than $100 spend on a anything else, I would have to imagine.
06-07-2012, 08:11 PM   #15
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Personally I think milky way shot only look interesting when it involve some earth objects in it...tree, mountains, rivers, etc. For those shots, an equatorial mount will blur those objects... I assume the Pentax astro tracker GPS doesn't work on K-r?

I am able to get decent milky way shot (far away from cities) with minimal star trial with 16mm, 30sec exposure. I use LR for noise reduction... also, turn off in camera noise reduction it took too long to take another shot.
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