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01-28-2017, 02:46 PM   #1
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Hoping to find Astro-nuts and Solar Eclipse veterans

Greetings fellow Pentaxians!

I'm a relatively new Pentax owner. I've had my K3-II for a little over a year now. I was looking for a sturdy, weather sealed camera to travel with. The built-in GPS and astrotracer tipped my decision in favor of Pentax (along with reasonable price). While interested in a variety of subjects, my primary interest in photography is starry night skies and astronomical events. I would appreciate being directed to threads concerning tripods, lenses, filters etc.

Thank you

01-28-2017, 03:04 PM   #2
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There are regularly threads on astro-photography at PF. Recent ones includes:
Astrophoto - recommended settings for the K-1 - PentaxForums.com
Astrotracer shows trails, what am I doing wrong? - PentaxForums.com
The K-3II astrotracer(or o-gps1), and wide angle lenses.. an observation. - PentaxForums.com
Astrophotography. Astrotracer worth it? - PentaxForums.com

Also the following PF social group:
Pentax Nightowls - PentaxForums.com

Maybe PF needs to have a couple of 'sticky posts' on astrophotography, or even a sub-heading forum (in Photography technique) dedicated to astrophotography.
01-28-2017, 03:20 PM   #3
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Hi from Australia KrisRae. Welcome to the Pentax forums, and Pentax equipment. @hcc has given some excellent links there for you to use. Enjoy your night time experiences !! Good to have you here.


Astrophotography - PentaxForums.com One more link for you.
01-28-2017, 07:19 PM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums!! .... I see that I did'nt roll the page up all the way and I just duplicated PJV's post....

All things about AstroPhotography with a Pentax.... There is some truly terrific information and images here!


01-28-2017, 10:45 PM   #5
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Welcome and best wishes.

Please consider posting in the Picture of the Week thread found in the Weekly Challenges area.
01-29-2017, 07:41 AM   #6
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Looks like you got plenty of reading to do with all those links, so I'll just say welcome.
01-29-2017, 11:19 AM   #7
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Thanks for greetings and provided links. Right now I have a very specific goal, which is the total solar eclipse in August. Already been doing a lot of reading on that elsewhere. I have a wish list of primes for astrophotography and have been doing some reading on lunar photos. Telephoto lenses generally are recommended for lunar photos and some photo articles I've read recommend the same for the eclispe. My issue is educating myself on equipment, namely a suitable tripod and alternatives to a large telephoto. I'm looking at boondocking or staying in a really small campground in SE Wyoming or NW Nebraska. The wind can be terrible there with some nasty gusts. I don't want to go to all the trouble of practicing for this event and taking the time to set up, only to have the wind blow it over in less than one minute. Is anyone discussing the eclipse?
01-29-2017, 10:00 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by KrisRae Quote
Is anyone discussing the eclipse?
Not that I have seen yet, but perhaps you could get the ball rolling by starting a thread in the " General Photography " forum to generate some interest and maybe get some tips along the way regarding tripods and filters etc. Good luck.

01-30-2017, 05:27 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by KrisRae Quote
...... I'm looking at boondocking or staying in a really small campground in SE Wyoming or NW Nebraska. The wind can be terrible there with some nasty gusts. I don't want to go to all the trouble of practicing for this event and taking the time to set up, only to have the wind blow it over in less than one minute. Is anyone discussing the eclipse?
On the topic of tripods - and we might as well toss in heads into the discussion. So, for tripods there are a number of items to consider.... Just the tripods can go for anywhere from $10 to $1,000+.
  • Weight - Heavier is better, but then you have to be able to carry it. If you will always be operating out of a vehicle, then that makes this item a bit easier. You can always hang additional weight from the bottom of the tripod, however you really do not want it to swing or to be a source of additional vibrations.
  • Material - There are a number of materials that are used for tripods. You want something to dampen the vibrations. You have your choice of plastic, metal (aluminum), carbon fiber, and wood. Wood is the best as it is a material that naturally dampens vibrations while being stiff, but is heavy. Plastic is essentially out - a tripod of any goodness is not going to be plastic. Aluminum is good, but is reasonably heavy which makes carrying difficult. Aluminum is also stiff, but transmits vibrations as opposed to a natural dampening agent. Carbon fiber was developed and employed to reduce overall physical weight and carbon tends to dampen vibrations while being reasonably stiff.
  • Leg Cross Section - This is usually a trade off. Thicker legs make overall heavier but more stable tripods, but if you are back packing - you want something that is reasonably light. Also, there is wind loading, where thin legs will start to vibrate, but thicker ones can act as a sail (larger area). With the overall system weighted down, sand bag from the center, or sand bags at each leg base can help in this respect.
  • Number of leg joints - The more leg sections you have the less stable the tripod. A lot of folding/travel tripods will have 3 or 4 leg sections in order to be able to fold to a sufficient small size for storage or transport - ease of carrying. Then you have the type of leg connections - twist locks, flip leg locks, or in the case of wood tripods - sliding leg locks. These (the locking mechanism) can be a source of vibration and or not locking tight enough.
  • Height and Center Column - You want a tripod to extend to a sufficient height for you that its usable. Most (99%) have a center column to add extra height, or to cantilever to a different position. For all the stability the tripod brings, the center column just is a source to add instability and vibrations back into the entire structure. So, if the tripod has a center column - don't use it (or remove it altogether).
  • Feet - Feet come in different types and can be interchangeable - since you don't always know what material you are going to be setting up on. You can have rubber feet or metal spike feet or ???? Metal spike feet are good for dirt, since they will dig in and add stability. However, on cement or hard surfaces, spike feet can just skid along the surface - where rubber will provide a source of grip. Also, in sandy (beach) conditions - spike or rubber may not work that well. Folks have taken to using old CDs and then placing the tripods on these, there by providing a larger surface area for the tripod to rest on, rather than sinking into the sand.
  • Top Platform and Connector - At the top of the tripod where the legs meet, there can be a center column, or just a small platform with a connecting or mounting bolt (usually 1/4-20 or 3/8-16 and there conversion bushings that allow you to convert the 1/4 to 3/8).
  • Leveling and Self-Leveling - Leveling is usually done by adjusting each of the legs individually so as to make the top of the tripod level. There are some tripods (usually the wooden ones) that have a self level mechanism that consists of a bowl or the bottom half of a ball that allows you to level the top and lock it down. In the case of the self leveling mechanism the top of the self leveling mechanism would have the connecting bolt.
Heads are the mechanical mechanism that sits on the top of the tripod on which the camera is connected and provides the ability to both hold and position (yaw, pitch and roll - or azimuth, elevation and roll) the camera. Heads come in a variety of types - ball head, geared head, 3D/video head, Fluid head, Panorama head, leveling head, Gimbal head. Each has their own specific strengths and weaknesses and uses that they excel at. Some of these heads - depending on their specific use, you will want some type of dynamic movement for tracking birds, or smooth panning (video and TV), etc. You can google each type and get pictures and see what they look like. Also, a common element of the heads is the ability to connect to the camera. This connection can be problematic and there are various types of connections. The most popular is the Arca-Swiss clamp and plate connection. Associated with the connection is brackets for the camera, usually L brackets that take the place of the plate, but mate with the clamp/clamping mechanism of the head. Heads are priced at anywhere from $10 to $1,000+ with clamps, plates and brackets being additional ($20 to $150 per individual piece).

Head Types
Here is a good guide and overview - Tripod Heads: A Buyer?s Guide: Match To Your Shooting Needs | Shutterbug
  • ball head - Ball heads have an azimuth movement capability with a ball mechanism controlled by a tension and locking mechanism. These are good for setting up and pointing the overall assembly. However, when you go to make minor adjustments and unlock the assembly, you are back to making adjustments in 3 dimensions again. Ball heads are famous for droop and creep. You point them, lock things down and then it droops and creeps just a bit so that you need to make some fine adjustments and when you do that - you put everything back into play again. That is why you have a tension adjustment available, so that you can have apply a lot of tension, so that when you open the main adjustment you still maintain some tension (i.e., locking) control to limit the amount of free movement available. PanoGuy here on PF wrote some wonderful ballhead review for the "other" unmentionable site.
  • geared head - Geared heads, have 3 individual and independent controls - azimuth, elevation and roll. This is good for making adjustments to just one axis at a time. Also, each of the adjustment mechanism is a gear, providing fine adjustments for pointing the camera. The Manfrotto 410 and 405 are good selections. Acra Swiss has the Cube for $1,000 to $1,500.
  • 3D/video/Fluid heads - These types of heads, usually have a handle associated with them, where you can unlock each axis at a time and use the one handle to smoothly adjust the pointing and then possibly lock it down again.
  • Panorama heads - Panorama heads usually have a set of arms so that you can precisely position the front of the lens over the center rotational point of the assembly (nodal point) so that you can pan the assembly with out introducing any parallax. Pano heads usually also has a rotator associated with them, where a fixed amount of azimuth movement is set, so that you can rotate around the nodal point in a 360 degree fashion in a fixed amount of movement (say 15 degrees) each time. It also allows for a fixed set of movement in elevation so that you can move in multiple rows of elevation. It can also come in a motorized version so that you can automagically move in various movements in quick pre-programmed sets. A great tutorial and review is at Panoramic heads buying guide by Arnaud Frich
  • leveling head - I'm going to bypass the details for now and address it below in considerations. A leveling head allows you to set a level surface on which to stack other heads (i.e., a pano head, etc.)
  • Gimbal heads - Gimbals are usually used for cameras with large heavy lenses, that need to move and track things in motion - think birds and animals. Also useful for tracking Surfers down at the beach.
Quick Release Systems
Quick Release (QR) Systems are designed mechanisms that enable you to easily and quickly connect the camera/lens to the top of the tripod/head assembly. There are a couple of standards - the Arca Swiss and the Manfrotto/Bogen RC system. Personal preference is the AS system which you can choose a knob screw lock or a lever locking mechanism. I hate the RC/RC2 mechanism since the head I was familiar with had a locking lever that took two hands to work, but you needed a third hand to hold the camera so that it would not tumble and go Spalding (bounce, bounce, bounce) off the clamp on to the ground when the lock was opened.
  • Arca-Swiss - Developed by Arca Swiss and adopted by professional photographers, this is a specific design clamp and plate system. It is directionless so that the camera can be mounted from any direction. It also has a safety pin so that when the clamp is not fully tightened the plate with the camera is not able to slip out of the assembly.
  • RC and RC2 - This too is a clamp and plate system, however the plate can only face one direction in the clamp, so that it is a directed system. This system is wide spread, but not as supported by third parties as the AS system.
Considerations
  • Level Panning - If you desire level panning, then you need to pay attention to the stacking of the various axis and how they are controlled. Nearly every head puts the azimuth control on the bottom as a base. For level panning this is backwards, as it needs to be on top directly under the camera. This is why there are leveling heads and or leveling bases built into the tripods, so that you can provide a level plane (surface) for the head (and its controls) on which to sit.
  • Height of the stack - If you start to stack up these heads, level head, pano head, etc., these can become quite high - which forms a moment arm - which is just another center column which may introduce vibration. So, you need to take this into consideration.
  • The system - As you put all of this together, the tripod (legs), the top of the tripod and what you have, the head, the clamp, the plate and then the camera or lens, you need to consider this entire set as a system un to itself. Overall weight, height, overall sources of vibration and can I lock it down to be stable in a static state, and when I need to make adjustments, how and when can I make the adjustments. If part of it needs to be dynamic - for tracking, do I need to track in one axis (azimuth or elevation) or two (both azimuth and elevation) and can I do is smoothly. Also, will the individual parts be able to carry the overall weight.
  • Safety Margin - Each of the items within the overall system will have a carrying weight. So if the tripod can only support say 10 pounds, and with the head, camera, and lens say comes to 7 or 8 pounds, you have very little margin. The overall suggestion is to plan to carry at least double of the anticipated weight. So, if your weight comes in at 7 to 8 pounds - the tripod should have a carrying capacity of 16 to 20+ pounds to be safe.
You can easily fine lots of information on the metal and carbon fiber tripods. You usually have to go hunting for the wooden ones. So, here is a good initial list. You will see that they also offer a selection of heads and leveling options too.

Last edited by interested_observer; 01-30-2017 at 11:50 AM.
01-30-2017, 07:23 AM   #10
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Wow! Thank you, interested-observer, for the detailed info on tripods. Nice to have it in one place. From some online classes and other internet research, I had a basic idea what I was looking for but sorting out fact from personal prefernce has been frustrating, not to mention there really wasn't this much information. Think I'll copy your reply into a printable document and take it with me while shopping. This is an item I would prefer to shop for in brick/mortor so I can tinker with various models. Since some of my photography adventures will involve the heart of darkness and cold fingers, don't want anything too complicated or stubborn. Houston Camera Exchange is the only photography-centric store in the area. They're more than 20 miles from us and close to downtown to boot. I'm hoping they have a good selection of tripods, otherwise not sure where else to look locally. Big box stores are worthless for this kind of stuff.

By the way, I like the word "automagically".
01-30-2017, 12:18 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by KrisRae Quote
...... Nice to have it in one place. .....

By the way, I like the word "automagically".
You can spend a small fortune on mechanical support - it is expensive! Lots of top quality brands available in tripods, heads, clamps, plates and rails along with other miscellaneous parts.. I took the liberty of adding some information, a section and some links. It depends on the retail outlet, but not every place is going to be able to have a nice wide selection of everything. I would not be too concerned about ordering off the web for some items, especially if you like one specific brand or feature that the retail location does not carry.

Interchangeability/interoperatability is important here in terms of mechanical standards. The 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 is a standard and there are bushings and other parts easily available to accommodate/switch between either. I would keep a couple of bushngs available for unexpected re-configurations - on the fly.

Automagically is a very technical term used in Software Engineering.

PanoGuy is a poster here on PentaxForums (PF), who I have not seen in a while. He is an absolute wealth of information.

Also, don't worry about mixing and matching parts. For instance I have a Manfrotto 410 geared head that has its own propriety plate (a real PIA). So, I ordered a panning clamp, and bolted the clamp (in place of the camera) to the 410 plate, and then used the standard AS system to mount the camera on to the new clamp and then mount the whole thing on to the 410's clamp assembly - it works great. I use the 410 for astro photography.

Also, I have an Acratech GP ballhead. I invert it (turn it upside down), so that the panning base is on top of the ball - for level panning. but in the 410 example, I picked up a panning clamp, so that the panning capability would be on the top of the 410's azimuth, elevation and roll controls so again I could pan level.

I also have been picking up used. Yes, I have a nice Giottos tripod and AcraTech GP head that I picked up new, but my beater tripod - Manfrotto 3000 and the 410 head I picked up used. So, you can mix and match to keep everything somewhat reasonable.

So, mechanically speaking - you wind up being a MacGyver.....

01-31-2017, 06:31 AM   #12
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As a print graphic designer, I certainly could have found "automagic" useful when dealing with clients who made me want to pull out hair. Not neccesarily mine. "It''s automagic and you'll just have to trust me." If I need to return to the field will keep that one handy.

In between other projects, I have been shopping. So I have seen a variety of prices on all kinds of equipment. Have no problem buying used equipment. It's actually one of the reasons I bought the Pentax k-mount camera. I liked the possibility of being able to use older lenses for manual focus to keep costs down a bit. Also figured I'd be less likely to cry over a used lens if I accidentally drop it.

When online shopping, I'll just have to make use of the chat feature with customer service to narrow down my choices on tripods. Will be reading the customer satisfaction guarantees closely, as well. May as well start haunting the forum marketplace, too.
01-31-2017, 08:31 AM   #13
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A couple of thoughts:

1. If you are very careful to mount the camera and lens at it's point of balance, you can use the tripod collapsed to it's shortest height which is both more out of the wind and stiffer. (Do be careful: an imbalanced camera-lens combo on a collapsed tripod is more likely to tip.)

2. Unless the wind is coming from the same direction as the sun, you can use your car or trailer to block it.

----


I, too, am planning a boondock trip for this eclipse. The more I read on the topic, the more obvious it becomes that good eclipse images take careful planning of focal lengths and exposure settings. The limited duration of totality isn't a good time to be improvising, changing lenses, chimping photos, messing with the tripod, etc. Some veteran eclipse photographers actually pre-record a set of audio instructions that are timed and synchronized to the expected eclipse events that remind them exactly what to do and when.
01-31-2017, 09:04 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Nowadays there are also apps like eclipse orchestra and the like, they allow you to make a script.
Practice beforehand, a lot!
02-01-2017, 06:19 AM   #15
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My first pick as a location for eclipse watching is in an area that has some respectable hills. We'll already be in the general area, so I would like to get there at least a week before to get set up and practice some more. Our tow vehicle, a Nissan NV 3500 is certainly large enough to block the wind. But I would have to position very carefully to make sure the camera can see over the van. Maybe over the hood...

Practicing is one reason I'm trying to find my equipment. I do have an old Vivitar lens on my camera right now that was on my husband's K-1000. Was pretty darn proud of myself for getting the camera into manual mode. Now I just need figure out the other settings to make the lens work for me. I'm enrolled in some classes that do have useful info on manual photography. They're just geared mostly for Nikon & Cannon. I need to add eye glasses to my list of equipment, because small print and my middle aged eyes are no longer on speaking terms. Makes reading the owner's manual a bit annoying.

Last edited by KrisRae; 02-02-2017 at 06:11 AM.
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