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4 Days Ago   #1
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Tripod head for astro/DSO photography?

Just purchased a K-3II, primarily for astrophotography with its astrotracer function. I took it out last night to shoot the Orion Nebula and didn't have much luck. I think I've figured out most of the issues I was having (mainly shooting in manual rather than bulb mode), but one thing I noticed was how frequently the camera needed to be re-centered at longer focal lengths (300mm). I was using a gimbal head and the method I improvised was to "nudge" the camera after every 4-5 exposures (30 seconds each) until my target was re-centered, but this seemed very imprecise and took some time to perform every couple of minutes or so. Does anyone have any suggestions for a method that would be faster/more efficient? Perhaps a different type of tripod head? Any help is much appreciated.

4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #2
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Hi,
You need something like this: Sky-Watcher | Sky-Watcher Global Website.
Andrej
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #3
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An equatorial telescope mount is the fastest and most efficient one for this type of shooting. Once the mount is aligned to the north or south pole and you've centered the object, a single careful twist of one control recenters the object.
4 Days Ago   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
An equatorial telescope mount is the fastest and most efficient one for this type of shooting. Once the mount is aligned to the north or south pole and you've centered the object, a single careful twist of one control recenters the object.
Thanks - I actually have a Skyguider Pro mount/tracker, but there are certain times when it's difficult to take it with me (hiking, traveling). I'll probably use the K-3II and astrotracer mostly for wide angle nightscapes, but thought I might as well try some DSOs with it.

4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #5
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You could try a geared tripod head. It offers finer control than unlocking a ballhead and manually recomposing every few frames.

Here's just one of many options: https://www.manfrotto.us/405-geared-tripod-head-strong-and-lightweight-aluminium

Last edited by DeadJohn; 4 Days Ago at 01:26 PM.
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #6
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I use the Giottos MH5012 3-way panning head for astro photography. It will support a 400 mm lens with a lens mount fairly well. I also have a Manfrotto 460MG, which is more compact but does tend to droop. The 460MG is gearless—the geared version should hold a lot more weight without dropping. Neither will track the stars, but I find the pan/tilt heads easier for making small adjustments.
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #7
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With a suitable wedge any tripod head suitable for the weight of lens & having a rotational ability should be workable.
The wedge basically mounts between the tripod & head & holds the head at the right angle for your lattitude. They are often homemade.
4 Days Ago   #8
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The geared head looks interesting and probably along-the-lines of what I was thinking, but $$$. My Skyguider has a wedge and I have a tilt/pan head already, so I think I'll give those a shot, first.

Thanks for the help!

4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #9
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Different needs are supported by different tools and approaches.
  • Pentax employs a technique that moves the sensor within the confines of the camera body to track the star's relative motion. The camera and lens as a single monolithic unit remains fixed in terms of pointing. When used with a long focal length lens with a relatively narrow field of view, the star is going to move out of the lens' field of view fairly rapidly.
  • A tracking mount, physically holds the camera and lens as a monolithic unit and moves in opposition to the earth's rotation maintaining the pointing, and thus keeping the star within the lens' field of view. There are a wide variety of tracking mounts described here --- Telescope Mounts Tutorial
Pentax's implementation is better situated for wide field use (wide angle lenses, short focal lengths) as opposed to tracking mounts that physically move the camera/lens as a unit, and are thus pretty insensitive to the lens' focal length.

There is a lot of knowledge by a very active astrophotography group here on the forum down in --- Astrophotography - PentaxForums.com

I designed and developed a star tracker for a little telescope down in Texas - HET.

Personally, I really don't want to be bothered with a physical tracker. It's more equipment to haul around and to setup and align. Pentax's implementation for me, is much better suited - especially for astrolandscapes and wide field, which eliminates the problem of having the star field walkout of the lens' field of view.


Last edited by interested_observer; 4 Days Ago at 10:12 PM.
3 Days Ago - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pyman Quote
Just purchased a K-3II, primarily for astrophotography with its astrotracer function. I took it out last night to shoot the Orion Nebula and didn't have much luck. I think I've figured out most of the issues I was having (mainly shooting in manual rather than bulb mode), but one thing I noticed was how frequently the camera needed to be re-centered at longer focal lengths (300mm). I was using a gimbal head and the method I improvised was to "nudge" the camera after every 4-5 exposures (30 seconds each) until my target was re-centered, but this seemed very imprecise and took some time to perform every couple of minutes or so. Does anyone have any suggestions for a method that would be faster/more efficient? Perhaps a different type of tripod head? Any help is much appreciated.
Hi Pyman
As you want to use the Astrotracer function - I guess, beaucs it is a lightweight, hazzle-free option - and you already own a Skyguider, I think a simple, robust ball head or even a normal 3D-head would be best suited to hold the camera in place, while letting do the Astrotracer its work.
I personally prefer ArcaSwiss Monoballs for their stabilty and and wokmanship. But also a bigger Manfrotto or Gitzo head would be a good choice. And there are other brands out there, which seem to have a good reputation. But I cannot comment on products I haven't used. A very lightweight, but still quite steady option are the smaller Novoflex ball heads. I use a small Ball30 on my hiking tripod.

Ben
3 Days Ago   #11
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I get what you're asking, as I've had this problem too. If you use a 200 or 300mm lens with the astrotracer, the object will move out of the field of view of the lens before too long. What you want is something similar to the slow motion controls on a telescope tripod.
A geared head seems the best solution...Manfrotto does have cheaper ones, or I found a Benro one.
Or you could use a fluid video head, but those tend to be large and heavy, so would perhaps defeat the purpose of just using astrotracer vs a tracking mount.
3 Days Ago   #12
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Several fine suggestions above, and you have a worthy portable geared drive already. The gotcha is that more magnification usually requires more precise movements and tighter monitoring. I have a similar camera/lens kit wrestling with my wallet for another solution. For your consideration, an alt-azimuth head with controls.
Several makers have similar manual mounts with widely varying costs and payload capacities. The Vixen Porta2 strikes me as easy, convenient and best payload. Add your ballhead + a compatible plate and you have quick & portable manual setup with slo-mo precision. Frankly, hiking camping & hauling gear may be a bigger governor. I like the Skywatcher portable drive kits for convenience ... but the cost etc really adds up. *darnit*
3 Days Ago   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeffdrew Quote
Several fine suggestions above, and you have a worthy portable geared drive already. The gotcha is that more magnification usually requires more precise movements and tighter monitoring. I have a similar camera/lens kit wrestling with my wallet for another solution. For your consideration, an alt-azimuth head with controls. Vixen Porta II Alt AZ Mount - YouTube
Several makers have similar manual mounts with widely varying costs and payload capacities. The Vixen Porta2 strikes me as easy, convenient and best payload. Add your ballhead + a compatible plate and you have quick & portable manual setup with slo-mo precision. Frankly, hiking camping & hauling gear may be a bigger governor. I like the Skywatcher portable drive kits for convenience ... but the cost etc really adds up. *darnit*
Der jeffdrew

Unfortunately an alt/az-mount is quite useless for astrophotography (unless you use it as a normal static tripod head), because you will introduce visible field rotation after about 20 s of exposure (depending on the height of the objects above the equator and the focal length of the lens). There is a reason, why we still use equatorial mounts for astrophotography today. The alternative would be a field derotator, but that is neither cheap, nor easy to carry, as it needs some kind of logic control.

Ben
2 Days Ago   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Der jeffdrew

Unfortunately an alt/az-mount is quite useless for astrophotography (unless you use it as a normal static tripod head), because you will introduce visible field rotation after about 20 s of exposure (depending on the height of the objects above the equator and the focal length of the lens). There is a reason, why we still use equatorial mounts for astrophotography today. The alternative would be a field derotator, but that is neither cheap, nor easy to carry, as it needs some kind of logic control.

Ben
This is correct, but not helpful to the OP, who is using astrotracer. In that case, the astrotracer functionality is acting as the EQ mount. And the OP is using a long lens, so isn't going to get much past 20 secs tracking anyway. What the OP wanted was something that allowed easy and controlled re-centering of the target object after the exposure. So a static alt-az mount with slow motion controls would work for his purpose.
But...and I say this having had one, the Twilight mount isn't really the lightweight solution the OP wanted either(it's only light weight compared to standard powered telescope mounts). The weight and size of the mount is pretty much the same as a Star Adventurer tracking mount, and the tripod is bigger and heavier than any standard camera tripod. So one might as well get the Star Adventurer or something similar if one could afford it.
2 Days Ago   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by SteveinSLC Quote
This is correct, but not helpful to the OP, who is using astrotracer. In that case, the astrotracer functionality is acting as the EQ mount. And the OP is using a long lens, so isn't going to get much past 20 secs tracking anyway. What the OP wanted was something that allowed easy and controlled re-centering of the target object after the exposure. So a static alt-az mount with slow motion controls would work for his purpose.
But...and I say this having had one, the Twilight mount isn't really the lightweight solution the OP wanted either(it's only light weight compared to standard powered telescope mounts). The weight and size of the mount is pretty much the same as a Star Adventurer tracking mount, and the tripod is bigger and heavier than any standard camera tripod. So one might as well get the Star Adventurer or something similar if one could afford it.
Dear Steve
I gave my suggestion which may hopefully been perceived as being helpful, three posts further up that thread. This last post was only ment to correct a common misconception.

Ben
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