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07-16-2012, 06:13 AM   #1
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Wide lens for aurora photography

Hi guys,

I'm going to Canada and Iceland this September and may consider getting a new lens for shooting the aurora. I currently have Pentax 15mm f4, 35mm f2.4, sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5, Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro and Pentax 60-250mm f4. probably will only use the wider lenses here for composition purposes. Might rule out the Sigma since it's the least sharp lens in my line-up, though very useful. Between the 15mm and 35mm, I think the 15mm is better for composition but too slow, but 35mm is tight but fast. Are any of my lens good enough or should I consider getting something else?

Currently looking at the Sigma 10mm f2.8 or Samyang 8mm f3.5, both fish-eyes. Currently leaning towards the Samyang since it's half the price and wider, but slower. However, is the Sigma that much faster at f2.8? I also saw Samyang releasing a f2.8 version for Sony/Olympus, what are the chances they'll do the same for pentax? I wish they make the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 for Pentax...that'll be perfect.

Other considerations include the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 (heard this lens is not as sharp as the older version? very soft at corners at f3.5), Samyang 14mm f2.8 (less appealing than the 8mm since it's almost the same as my 15mm just faster)

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Aaron

07-16-2012, 08:08 AM   #2
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I'm not really good at astrophotog, but I would suspect that the Pentax 14 f2.8, or Sigma 10-20 (the f3.5 -0 f4.5 version) would fit the bill. Sharpness isn't a huge concern, as much as getting as much light in as fast as possible (because since the stars move, a slow but sharp lens will do you no good).
07-16-2012, 09:09 AM   #3
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I don't have much experience here either, but wide and fast is they key for aurora work. I'd poke around the interwebs to see what some of the aurora photogs are using. I think I'd want something in the f/2.8 range.
07-16-2012, 09:28 AM   #4
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f3,5 is 2/3 stop slower than f2,8.

f3,5 is also 1/3 stop faster than f4.

your 17-70 /2,8-4 can do the trick @17mm, specially if it is sharp as you say.

I bet exposure time should be around 10-30 sec, so if you can have clear picture @800 iso it would be absolutely perfect.

-> what is your current body ?

don't forget to take at least 2 battery, because cold will reduce the time during which the body will say it have enought power. Keep the other in a warm pocket (or in your underwear ). You will have to switch battery during sessions.

Don't take filter it will produce Newton effect (Big ring in the middle of the picture, like flare.)

If you can bump iso (do some test at home) the 15/4 can be enought.

07-16-2012, 09:54 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by aurele Quote

don't forget to take at least 2 battery, because cold will reduce the time during which the body will say it have enought power. Keep the other in a warm pocket (or in your underwear ). You will have to switch battery during sessions.
It's not that cold in September LOL, coldest it will get towards month end is about 5 Celsius (or 40 or so Fahrenheit) beginning of the month will be closer to 8-10 Celcius at night)

Churchill manitoba is maybe colder getting as low as 1-2 by month end, but is above 6 at the beginning of the month
07-17-2012, 04:46 AM   #6
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The body is a Pentax k-5, also got a spare k-x as backup. And yeah it's not that cold in September, it's still autumn.
07-17-2012, 02:44 PM   #7
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Look forward to seeing your results! It looks like a K5 at ISO800 with F/4 is sufficient for a 30sec exposure, based on the photos in the link below. You can always go to ISO1600.... Your 17-70mm zoom lens is F/2.8, put the 17-70mm isn't nearly as sharp as the DA15mm. Center sharpness for the 15mm at F/4 is still excellent.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/184375-night-few-more-aurora.html
07-17-2012, 08:02 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by sheld Quote
Look forward to seeing your results! It looks like a K5 at ISO800 with F/4 is sufficient for a 30sec exposure, based on the photos in the link below. You can always go to ISO1600.... Your 17-70mm zoom lens is F/2.8, put the 17-70mm isn't nearly as sharp as the DA15mm. Center sharpness for the 15mm at F/4 is still excellent.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/184375-night-few-more-aurora.html

Nice photos there! I think they are not 30 sec exposures though as that will blur out the aurora too much. What kind of settings will be required for a 10 sec exposure for moderate aurora?

07-27-2012, 07:09 AM   #9
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I live in Iceland and have some experience with shooting auroras. I have the K7 and DA 12-24mm f4 and use it almost always at 12mm. I often wish it were wider. Using a fisheye is out of the question if you want to include the landscape below. If I had a fisheye I'd use it on a backup camera pointed straight up.

The DA 12-24mm is a bit dim for auroras, but fine for everything else, so I've not felt the need for buying a brighter lens. At first I used relatively low ISO and longer shutter speeds, but in recent years I've learned that higher ISO isn't that bad for auroras, even with the K7 and ISO 1600. It is often fairly easy to remove with noise reduction software. I imagine you could go much higher with the K5.

The reason high ISO is better is mainly because the aurora flares and moves fairly quickly, so you will want to catch as many photos as you can while they flare, and avoid dark frame subraction at all cost.

You can see a few of my aurora photos at http://photo.net/photos/thv

Last edited by thv; 07-27-2012 at 07:10 AM. Reason: Added link to photos
07-28-2012, 12:16 AM   #10
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I love your gallery Thrainn! The aurora shots are pretty good too at f4. Just wondering if you have time so we can meetup and do a few days shooting in Iceland? It's such a beautiful country with diverse landscapes and you are so lucky you live there! I feel like going there every year! I'll be there on the last week of September this year. First few days with Tony Prower from Iceland aurora photo tours:

Iceland aurora photo tours : Driven by a passion for photography
07-28-2012, 06:14 AM   #11
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I'd like very much to meet up and show you some of the sights. Perhaps you could send me a personal message with the details and I'll try to plan something that was not covered by your aurora photo tour.

I'm inlcuding a couple of aurora status and forecast links that I use to plan aurora photography, in case anyone on this forum is interested.
Aurora Forecast | Geophysical Institute
Aurora Watch
Northern Hemisphere Enlarged View

Thrainn
07-28-2012, 09:17 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by thv Quote
I'd like very much to meet up and show you some of the sights. Perhaps you could send me a personal message with the details and I'll try to plan something that was not covered by your aurora photo tour.

I'm inlcuding a couple of aurora status and forecast links that I use to plan aurora photography, in case anyone on this forum is interested.
Aurora Forecast | Geophysical Institute
Aurora Watch
Northern Hemisphere Enlarged View

Thrainn
That's very kind of you, I'll send you a PM with the details now!
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