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07-26-2009, 10:32 AM   #1
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Best film for night/starlight photography? (for use in tandem with dslr)

Ok, so inspired by a recent National Geographic article on
the vanishing darkness of our night skies, I am interested
in trying some nighttime photography, both urban and
rural.

I just got a k2000, and it will be my main camera, but I
get the impression that that non-FF DSLRs are not ideal
for nighttime photography, what with long exposure sensor
heating and noise and such...

So, my idea is to get the exposure/composition correct
with my DSLR, and then replicate the shot with my Spotmatic.

Has anyone done this?

What would be a good film to use?


[kurt]

07-26-2009, 11:31 AM   #2
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Hi Kurt,
Can't help you with film choices, but just want to say that dSLRs, whether FF or not, are more than capable of capturing long exposure night shots, given you choose the right parameters. Sensor noise has not been a problem for me getting the right results, and I've done up to 60 minute exposures with my K100D, K10D and *ist D cameras (all 'hot' CCD sensor-based cams) without much noise to speak of.
07-26-2009, 11:51 AM   #3
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Provia 100 was good for me, low noise levels were brilliant.
07-26-2009, 12:34 PM   #4
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It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. DSLR's are great with short exposure/high ISO shots (20-90 seconds, ISO 800-3200) when you want to capture the landscape along with the starry or Milky Way "background". This does put demands on the sensor and noise can be a problem.

If you are looking for long exposures of the sky only, then exposures made on a clock driven equatorial mount works best for DSLR or film.


I shoot film only and have good results with E200 (or Elite Chrome 200) pushed 1 stop, maybe two. Fuji Provia 400X or Sensia 400 work well at their rated ISO. I can capture the Milky Way in a 2 minute exposure at f/2, or a 5-10 minute exposure at f/2.8. Stopped down is preferable since lens aberations are limited and light falloff is minimized as well. These are relatively brief exposures as I was trying to freeze the landscape along with recording stars. A challenge for film, but best with DSLR's. I'm still not convinced DSLR's are better than film for single long exposures when using medium format cameras. I get terrific results with E200 in my 67. DSLR's are closing the gap as time goes by however. I like film and will be shooting it for some time.

If your shooting star trails, you can do no better than using Provia 100F with a nice wide angle lens stopped down to say, f/4 to f/8, depending on light pollution and how long you expose. I would try 1-2 hours at f/5.6 using Provia.

My results with long exposures using a Pentax 67 are even more dramatic.


50MM F/1.4 SMC Takumar at f/2 2 minute exposure Kodak Elite Chrome 200 pushed +1 stop. Camera piggybacked on telescope to track stars.



Fuji Pro 800Z 50MM F/1.4 SMC Takumar at f/2 2 minute exposure. Two frame mosaic. Again camera mounted on scope for tracking. I like the speed of 800Z, but it has color shift in long exposures. E200 has almost none.


Star trails - 35MM F/3.5 @ f/4 30 minute exposure on Elite Chrome 200 pushed +1.


07-26-2009, 01:09 PM   #5
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To all that do night photography with colour negative film: do you have problems with grain in the shadows? I have not shot a lot of colour neg. but what I immediately noticed was the grain in shadows compared to slide film.

I do night shots preferably with Velvia. Like to get the most out of the little colour that's left at night.
07-26-2009, 01:46 PM   #6
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There was some discussion in this thread :
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/67485-k7-astro-night-photo.html
Mischivo wrote :

If you're fascinated by astrophotography, I suggest you buy a film camera and some Fuji Acros black and white film, as its reciprocity failure isn't even documented by Fujifilm for long-exposures... it's that good, apparently.



Also check out the great Martin Zalba, and his Nocturnas series from the K10 :
Re: Do you agree with this comparison of the 20D and nikon 700D?: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
07-26-2009, 10:43 PM   #7
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All good advice. I used to use Kodak Elite Chrome 160 with an 18mm lens. For star trails, setting it to f/11 allowed me to use exposures up to 4.5 hours without skyfog building up.
Digi is not quite what I am used to. My *ist DS is fairly noisy at ISO 3200, something I still have to overcome. I lament not being able to use any of my cable releases,electronic switches just seem to complicate matters.
Also, all my film cams do not require battery power to operate so power is not an issue. I can see me having to "acquire" an external power source for the digi, plus having to keep an eye on dew formation. Film cameras don't seem to mind having dew dripping off them but I wouldn't subject the digi to the same treatment.
With digi, you can do multiple exposures and stack them up in software to improve contrast, reduce noise and build "image density". There are plenty of freeware programs out there, this is one example: DeepSkyStacker - Free
Good luck.
07-27-2009, 03:46 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jonson PL Quote
There was some discussion in this thread :
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/67485-k7-astro-night-photo.html
Mischivo wrote :

If you're fascinated by astrophotography, I suggest you buy a film camera and some Fuji Acros black and white film, as its reciprocity failure isn't even documented by Fujifilm for long-exposures... it's that good, apparently.



Also check out the great Martin Zalba, and his Nocturnas series from the K10 :
Re: Do you agree with this comparison of the 20D and nikon 700D?: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
Fuji Acros hold much promise due to its reciprocity characteristics. Fuji does not seem to advertize this, but neither does Kodak on all its films. E200 is perhaps the best film for color work as it still records light for many hours, a fact only determined by astrophotographers in the field. Who is testing film for astrophotography today? There is just a handful of us left. We have to do the testing.

I plan on trying Acros this summer if the weather ever clears. It is an orthopanchromatic film, so it will not be very sensitive to the red emission nebulae we like to record. It does sound like its worth a try.

07-27-2009, 03:53 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jimfear Quote
To all that do night photography with colour negative film: do you have problems with grain in the shadows? I have not shot a lot of colour neg. but what I immediately noticed was the grain in shadows compared to slide film.

I do night shots preferably with Velvia. Like to get the most out of the little colour that's left at night.
I would imagine grain is easily picked up by the thinest part of an image. For negatives, the shadow areas are thinest. Transparencies are dense in shadow or dark areas. I do see the most grain in highlighted areas on transparencies, especially light blue skies.

I've tried Velvia for sky shooting, I would agree it does pick up deep twilights nice, but is a poor film for long exposures of the Milky Way or other deep sky phenomena. It is another tool in the toolbox, sometimes the best one.
07-27-2009, 04:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pixelsaurus Quote
......all my film cams do not require battery power to operate so power is not an issue. I can see me having to "acquire" an external power source for the digi, plus having to keep an eye on dew formation. Film cameras don't seem to mind having dew dripping off them but I wouldn't subject the digi to the same treatment.

A mechanical film camera works best for the reasons you described. I shoot at sub zero conditions in winter, sometimes 10 below zero F. Not sure how DSLR's work in those conditions. Film has lower reciprocity failure at these temperatures to.

The K-7 has been advertised to work at low temps and thermal noise might be less at these temps as well. Like a cooled CCD! Not sure if this has any effect in reality, but the idea sounds plausible.

The K-7 also is "water resistant" so maybe dew would not be a problem for this particular camera.
07-27-2009, 10:38 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by nightfly Quote
Film has lower reciprocity failure at these temperatures to.
I didn't know this. Do you have any more info? Times, temps, films etc?
07-28-2009, 09:59 AM   #12
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Film Reciprocity VS. Temperature

I have no specifics, but it is a general rule that reciprocity increases with colder temperatures. Back in the day (late 70's, early 80's) we used "cold Cameras" with dry ice to cool the film chip (a cut piece of film!) down to about -40 F.

Not all films responded this way, but I remember exposures on "chilled Ektachrome 400" that really came out nice. Jack Newton was the king of the cold camera. What a pain to work with. Moisture formation was a contant battle, lots of dry nitrogen to purge the film chamber etc....

Try this site: Cold Camera Astrophotography


Hypersensitization replaced cold cameras for the most part. Baking Technical Pan 2415 in a mixture of nitrogen and hydrogen removed the moisture in the film and made it supersensitive.

Try this site: Gas Hypersensitization

Hypered film could be done at home or purchased by a few companies that did it for you.

DSLR's and cooled CCD cameras came around and took all that fun out of astrophotography!
07-29-2009, 05:15 PM   #13
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I believe Provia 100F has some of the reciprocity failure around.
07-29-2009, 05:28 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by TWoK Quote
I believe Provia 100F has some of the reciprocity failure around.
Yes, Provia 100F has excellent reciprocity. I've always recommended this film for very long exposures, like star trails.

Thomas Earle has done some great work using 4x5 and Provia 100F

Star Trails over Pearson Ridge, Oregon
07-30-2009, 07:30 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by nightfly Quote
It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. DSLR's are great with short exposure/high ISO shots (20-90 seconds, ISO 800-3200) when you want to capture the landscape along with the starry or Milky Way "background". This does put demands on the sensor and noise can be a problem.

If you are looking for long exposures of the sky only, then exposures made on a clock driven equatorial mount works best for DSLR or film.


I shoot film only and have good results with E200 (or Elite Chrome 200) pushed 1 stop, maybe two. Fuji Provia 400X or Sensia 400 work well at their rated ISO. I can capture the Milky Way in a 2 minute exposure at f/2, or a 5-10 minute exposure at f/2.8. Stopped down is preferable since lens aberations are limited and light falloff is minimized as well. These are relatively brief exposures as I was trying to freeze the landscape along with recording stars. A challenge for film, but best with DSLR's. I'm still not convinced DSLR's are better than film for single long exposures when using medium format cameras. I get terrific results with E200 in my 67. DSLR's are closing the gap as time goes by however. I like film and will be shooting it for some time.

If your shooting star trails, you can do no better than using Provia 100F with a nice wide angle lens stopped down to say, f/4 to f/8, depending on light pollution and how long you expose. I would try 1-2 hours at f/5.6 using Provia.

My results with long exposures using a Pentax 67 are even more dramatic.


50MM F/1.4 SMC Takumar at f/2 2 minute exposure Kodak Elite Chrome 200 pushed +1 stop. Camera piggybacked on telescope to track stars.



Fuji Pro 800Z 50MM F/1.4 SMC Takumar at f/2 2 minute exposure. Two frame mosaic. Again camera mounted on scope for tracking. I like the speed of 800Z, but it has color shift in long exposures. E200 has almost none.


Star trails - 35MM F/3.5 @ f/4 30 minute exposure on Elite Chrome 200 pushed +1.
Those shots are seriously good. Really like the second one. Was it easy to make the two frame mosaic ?
You keep the shutterspeed in the 2 minutes range, so it will not turn into trails, but be spots ?

This is where a built of the prototype K 20/1.4 AL lens, would be awesome :
K 20/1.4 AL

The roumour of a 35/1.4 would also be welcome, I guess


Wim had a nice digital shot, here :
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=29610891&page=1
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