Achieving Great Digital Astrophotography
It is very easy to achieve great digital astrophotography with digital SLR cameras. In order to achieve great digital astrophotography, you will need to have the proper equipment, know which settings to use on your DSLR camera, and know how to focus your digital SLR camera. If you do not properly focus your camera, you can forget about obtaining the crystal clear astrophotography shots that you are looking for. Most people who are looking to achieve great digital astrophotography are focusing on scenic and deep sky shots.
To achieve great digital astrophotography, you will, of course, need a digital SLR camera. Recommended digital SLR cameras for astrophotography include the Canon 5D Mark II, the Canon 1000D and the Nikon D5000. When you are purchasing a camera for digital astrophotography, you should be looking for a camera that is low noise and very sensitive. You will also need a telescope that has an aperture of at least 80 mm and a focal length of at least 600 mm. Unless you have really steady hands, you should look into purchasing a mount for stabilization purposes.
Generally speaking, all astrophotography shots require some sort of editing, so you will need an editing program. A good digital editing program for astrophotography is ImagePlus. ImagePlus actually comes with many Canon DSLR cameras, or you can purchase it separately.
It only takes a few minutes to configure your camera properly for astrophotography shots. You should never be in auto mode when you are capturing astrophotography photos. Your digital SLR camera should always be in manual mode. With most cameras, you can switch to manual mode by turning the dial on your camera to M. The shutter speed that you are using is up to you, but many people recommend a shutter speed of 4.0 for digital astrophotography.
You should also set your image recording quality to raw and picture review should be turned off. You will be reviewing your pictures when you go to edit them, so there is no need to waste time with picture review because you need to be able to obtain your astrophotography shots on the fly.
Focusing Your Camera
It is imperative that your camera be properly focused when you are taking astrophotography photos. The best way to focus your camera for digital astrophotography is to use a magnifier. The magnifier attaches to the viewfinder on your camera. With the magnifier attached, look for a star of medium brightness in the night sky. To prevent light and distractions from altering your concentration on focusing your digital camera, cover one of your eyes with an eye patch.
Once you have located a medium brightness star in the sky, toggle the focuser on your digital SLR camera back and forth until you can see the star perfectly. You will need to focus your camera again every night that you wish to take astrophotography shots because of the varying degrees of darkness.