Sunday, May 6, 2012

D7000 + 70-300VR + Kenko 2x – Perigee Moon and Amazing Saturn

Well, yesterday I was gushing over how well the mega-moon and Saturn turned out in JPEG on a bridge camera. And that was a fair gush. It really is a bit of a treat to see a small camera make a big image.

But I know that there is more to be got from consumer-grade equipment. And of course today is the actual perigee moon, which also coincides with a real full moon. Yesterday, there was a slight terminator visible, which made some craters at the very edge of the moon stand out nicely. Today, there is no terminator and we have only a slight hint of visible craters.

But, there is more detail and clarity on these two shots than on the HS25 shots. And indeed, I managed to capture the best images of both bodies that I ever have, and that includes shooting with the 300 f/4 AFS. Boy, do I wish I had that lens and the TC17e around to play with now ….

Anyway, this moon turned out huge because of the massive magnification. We have 300mm times 2 for the Kenko, and then times 1.5 for the APS-C crop factor. Which gives 900mm effective focal length. That’s longer than many smaller telescopes.

And this moon shows it. In my opinion, anyway.

D7000 + 70-300VR + Kenko 2x TC  100iso  f/11 (f/22 effective)  1/200

Since we understand that the moon is lit by the sun, it is obvious that I underexposed the moon by at least a full stop here. But that’s not all that damaging on this sensor at 100 ISO. The dynamic range in the shadows is staggering, and so this is an excellent trade for shutter speed and sharpness.

Consider clicking on the image to launch it into a browser to see the 800px version. Wow.

And then there was Saturn. Again.

So why bother shooting Saturn again? I’ve done it to death, no? Well, no. In fact, I get better images every time I shoot it. I experiment and refine my exposures to balance the noise at higher ISO against the noise I would get by pulling up an underexposed image. I might underexpose to increase shutter speed or to lower ISO. Either might benefit me. Anyway, you get my drift. I always start with the settings from my last venture and experiment from there.

This Saturn image is by far my best ever. There is color, there is ring separation and there is 3-dimensionality on the planet itself. It really looks like Saturn. This image is somewhat magnified using bicubic automatic mode in CS6, but it looks good right from the get-go.

D7000 + 70-300VR + Kenko 2x TC 2500iso f/13 (f/25 effective) 1/25

That looks a lot like images shots with proper equipment and tracking. Gotta love that D7000.


What is interesting about these results is that I was not really able to get here by playing with dSLRs alone. By trying these shots (and succeeding at times) with small sensors, I forced myself to shoot these subjects fairly often, and with settings that are not obvious with larger sensors.

And that has made all the difference. The learning curve requires thinking outside the box, and small sensors still force one to do that. They are getting much, much better over time. But they still have a lot of limitations, so your skills must compensate.

So this was a fun two days. I suppose I will have to take a shot with the fancy shmancy “intelligent zoom” on the HS25 next …