How to start basic astrophotography?

Many people have been asking McGill about astrophotography, which is photography of objects in the sky. These range from complete beginners to experienced photographers looking for another aspect of photography. They want to know what the necessary equipment are. Some sincerely question if astrophotography is feasible in terribly light-polluted night sky of Singapore.

The good news is…… With the help of appropriate equipment, taking pictures of dim objects is no longer a fantasy in urban areas. As is the case of quality optical equipment, astrophotography-related gear do not come cheap. However one does not have to invest in many thousands of dollars for a start. McGill’s suggestion is to set aside an initial budget of SGD$1,500-$2,500. Depending on the interest level, you may obtain extra gear or tools gradually as you develop the hobby.

For basic astrophotography, you may start with a portable telescope, an astronomy mount, a DSLR camera and tripod. As you are taking pictures of the night sky, it is advisable to spend time to know the bright stars and constellations above you and be aware of what objects will appear at the time of shooting. There are free stargazing apps that can be downloaded to your smart phone.

A telescope is the best way to take pictures of the night sky as it is designed to capture light in the dark, compared to standard camera lenses. Some higher grade telescopes known as apochromatic telescopes or astrographs are designed to provide pictures of sharp stars with distortion-free or flat-field image quality. Our view is to get the best telescope that you can afford. We strongly suggest getting a telescope with ED (Extra-Dispersion) optics or better. It will produce good quality images. Only a beautiful picture will justify or appease the many hours of hard work and brain power pumped into the hobby. We stock some popular models which would be interesting options for beginners. Click on the images to see product details.

                                                                

However if you already own a DSLR camera with some lenses, it is possible to use these to capture wide field views of the night sky and some bright celestial objects TOGETHER with a motorized mount which moves and tracks the rotation of the stars, such as the one below.

Many people did not realize that the mount is a critical or probably the most important aspect of astrophotography. They usually ask what telescope should they invest in, but without a steady and reliable mount to support the optics, there is no chance of getting a good picture. With the advent of technologies, it is fortunate we are now able to get highly functional mounts at affordable prices for basic astrophotography with small telescopes or camera lenses.

We strongly recommend the Star Adventurer 2i Pro Pack from Sky-Watcher as your first astrophotography mount. It is the #1 bestselling non-GOTO (non-computerized) mount in many countries. Excellent in capturing wide-field pictures and landscape astrophotography, the Star Adventurer is also affordable, portable and easy to use for beginners. In addition, there are countless tutorials online for you to gain mastery over this equipment.

If you are looking for an ultra-portable setup for hikes to beaches, mountains and remote places, we strongly recommend this Starter Astrophotography Kit!

Equipped with this kit, plus your existing camera gear and tripod, you can now start your astrophotography adventure!

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