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08-09-2016, 10:36 AM   #1
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Astrophotography with K-3 II (how-to)

I'd start with a simple question for the experienced, thus the topic in the beginner help section of the forum.

I know nothing about astrophotography and have my K-3 II for a short time (much more familiar with K-S1) and one of the main reasons to go for K-3 II instead of K-3 was it's built in GPS with Astrotracer. Now I'd like to start learning, and couldn't think of a better place to start than here. I couldn't find a simple and short "how to start" guide which would help users of K-3 II...

I'd like to ask what are the basic things one would need to have to be able to start learning how to do it well (of course, having a tripod and a K-3 II would be the first two things on the list) There are ways and ways (with other cameras and without Astrotracer), but I'm not really into that now...

So, I presume a fine wide prime or some other nice lens like Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 would be a nice thing to start with...
Also, having a remote also isn't the dumbest thing I could think of...

Ok, I'm out in the middle of the night, avoiding all the possible lights nearby, K-3 II on the tripod, attached lens, what next?

Can I shoot with only one exposition (no stacking)? How long that exposition should be for beginning, 30 secs or..?

I'd appreciate any sort of guidance...

08-09-2016, 11:46 AM   #2
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If you want to use the astrotracer, that means no star trails, which simplifies things a bit. For star trails, you otherwise have a multitude of exposure options and techniques.

Anyway, the basic procedure is to enable the astrotracer in the main menu, turn the gps on using the button on top, and wait for a fix. Once you see bars next to the satellite icon, you're good to go.

Put the camera in bulb mode and select a shutter speed. Having a remote or at least using the self timer will be very helpful. 60-120s is generally a realistic expectation if you want to see no movement at all. With longer lenses, you'll be closer to 60s.

You will need to calibrate to astrotracer at least once. Take a test shot at 30 seconds, and if you see any motion, keep calibrating until it's gone. The option can be found in the menu. Zooming in can help you test the calibration.

I'd experiment with ISOs in the 100-1600 range to see what works best for you. Also, be sure to keep slow shutter speed noise reduction on, and always shoot in raw, as raw files bring out way more detail when it comes to shooting stars.

Hope this helps get you started!
08-09-2016, 11:47 AM   #3
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Not on tripod yet! You want to tumble the camera in order to calibrate the GPS system first (Adam beat me to it & has this covered).
Once that's done and a signal lock is in place, you can click in to that tripod and go to work. Any fast lens will do but wider lenses can shoot longer before they are shut off.

Sorry that's all I have so far waiting for a K-3ii of my very own!
08-09-2016, 01:00 PM   #4
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Original Poster
This is a nice start, thank you both. I knew the detail about calibration as I was already reading the manual and looking at several videos about K-3 II but usually these videos talk abot features and capabilities of a camera in general. Okay, I'll start working on it tomorrow night as I'm already wasted today. I'll start with looking for the best focal length, probably will start @17mm and see where that goes because I already found a great place for shooting, funny enough, in the backyard of my own as we live around four miles away from the town. Will have to find a sweet spot to avoid shooting more trees than sky, though Will report how it goes Any further ideas based on experiences are welcome as well

BTW, I read most of this:

Also... -
"Pentax has been one of the lesser talked about camera companies lately, especially as Sony has been stealing the spotlight with their latest mirrorless cameras. That said, the Pentax K-3 II is, in my opinion, the most interesting, and arguably most capable, APS-C DSLR on the market. In fact, I think it’s better than most full-frame DSLRs in both features and image quality capability."

Last edited by stein; 08-09-2016 at 01:41 PM.
08-10-2016, 07:00 PM - 1 Like   #5

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The next few nights should be a good time for some night photography. The Perseid meteor shower peaks, depending on who you listen to, on Wednesday night/Thursday morning or Thursday night/Friday morning. The shower will run through the weekend but the peak will be over the next few days. Best viewing (and photography) will be from about midnight to just before sunrise. Have fresh batteries and plenty of them. Set up in a dark place. The darker, the better. Set the camera on a tripod and point it toward the northeast sky. A lot of sky will increase the odds of a meteor appearing in a frame but you'll want something, building, low mountains, ground on the bottom of the frame for some context. Turn off the noise reduction, both long exposure and high iso. Initial setting try 1600 iso, aperture maybe two stops from wide open, and if you're using a 50mm lens, a shutter speed of about 8 seconds. If you're using a shorter focal length you can add a little time to the exposure. If you're using a longer focal length, you'll need to subtract some time from the exposure to avoid star trails. Check the image and adjust until you get an exposure you're happy with. When you're satisfied with the image, put the lens cover on and take an exposure. This is your dark frame you'll use it later. Anytime you change exposure length or iso, you'll need a dark frame for that exposure. When you are all set up, set the intervalometer to take a picture at an interval slightly longer than the exposure length. If you are making 8 second exposure, set the camera to take a picture every 10 seconds. You can do the math to figure how long you want to shoot. At ten second intervals, you'll get 6 shots per minute 60, you'll take 360 images in an hour. The object here is to have maximum open shutter time. After you're done shooting you can look up "dark frame subtraction" in an internet search to learn how to use dark frames instead of in camera noise reduction. Once you're comfortable and equipped for night shooting, post processing will greatly improve your images. but that can come later. You can also use the GPS very effectively here, but the foreground will blur. I'm not going to try to cover everything here but I hope to get you out night shooting with as much success as possible. There are too many types of night photography to cover here and each has its own techniques and equipment need. Astrophotography, night landscape, constellation, meteors, etc. and I don't know just what equipment you have. It's a whole other world out there at night. So, this should get you going for the next few nights with minimum gear. Good luck!
5 Days Ago   #6
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So, I followed the instructions for Astro Tracker with the K-3ii a d when I select Bulb there is no option to choose time, only f-stop and ISO. How do I get the timer to put in the number of seconds I want?
Thanks Tom

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