Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Pentax Astrotracer and Pentax K30. Astrophotography

Pentax Astrotracer and Pentax K30.

I use the Pentax K30 with Astrotracer and use the kit 50mm lens, Pentax 50-200mm lens and Tamrons 70-300mm.

ASTROTRACER function,which couples the unit with the camera’s  Shake Reduction system and enables users to photograph celestial bodies. The unit can calculate the movement of stars, planets, and other bodies using the latitude obtained from GPS data and the camera’s alignment data (horizontal and vertical inclinations and aspect) obtained from its magnetic and acceleration sensors, then shifts the camera’s image sensor in synchronization with the movement of the objects.

A couple of niggles are the flashing lights on the unit which need to be covered with a bit of sticky tape when composing the shot, however i found this useful when away from the camera the light warns others of it location on a dark night. The precision calibration can be a bit of a pain at times but once set works nicely.

I am new at astrophotography and have a lot to learn with Data processing I currently use Deepsky Stacker

Examples of my efforts can be seen below.

Update Sept 2013

I have been using the Astrotracer for a while now and still getting to grips more through weather conditions than complexity of the kit.

One important point to remember is your camera lcd screen will sometimes look like the stars are trailing but when you zoom in you see this is not the case and you don't need to recalibrate it like i have been doing.

Calibration can be slightly annoying and its a must to wear the camera strap or the camera will be likely to end up bouncing off the ground Carrying out the full range of movement as directed is important sometimes it calibrates very quickly others it can be a bit temperamental  moving a few feet or keeping away from strong sources of magnetism helps, although i often use it at the boot of my car without a problem.

The control panel for Astrotracer is simple enough. Lenth of exposure, ISO setting F setting can all be adjusted and seen on the camera LCD.

On my camera I shut off both noise reduction settings as if you take a 300 second exposure yo have to wait the same time for the camera to process it before you can take the next shot.

I also use the 2 second delay to prevent any camera shake and always make sure shake reduction is also turned off.

I have been using a hand warmer self activating type and an elastic band to prevent dew forming on lens and in the process of making up some battery powered lens warmers.

To get the best out of the Astrotracer it is advised to use Deepskystacker which has some good tutorials on Youtube and in its documentation I am glad it is easier to use than it looks.

I like the simple and effective manner of  Forrest Tanaka plenty of more indepth tutorials are available.

Here is an example for Andromeda M31 .The Andromeda Galaxy Pentax K30
14 images, 5 Darks, 4 lights ISO F5.6, ISO1600, 40secs 95mm — at Scottish Dark Sky Park - 

Darks are taken by keeping the camera settings as per your shots with the lens cap   on making sure you don't knock the focus out. Do this after taking you images before the ccd cools this helps remove camera noise during processing. I have been told you should have at least 20% darks to images taken. Lights i don't always take but have done by using a white illuminated settings arn't as important and i usually take a couple only, for use with my K30 image processing but this will be different for other areas of astrophotography.

Below is a few recent images on Flickr I will add to it as the season progresses and we get more clear nights and hopefully have most of the settings shown

I am no expert on this subject but though i would share some of my experiances with thr Pentax Astro Tracer 0-GPS1


Should you have an useful information on the subject please leave a comment and share with others.