2020-07-14

Astronomy Gear For Jupiter And Saturn

During the week of the 14th July 2020 the biggest planet in our solar system will appear at its largest as the earth passes between it and the sun. During the whole week Jupiter will be highly visible (clouds permitting) and we’ve gathered some equipment ideas which will help photographers and budding astronomers to get the best view in the house from our very own planet earth.

There is a brilliant interactive tool which allows visitors to select the planet they wish to view, and the tool then displays the best time to take in the night sky in order to view that planet. Visit the Time And Date website here for the celestial tool which includes Jupiter spotting.

Sony A7 R IV camera with Sony FE 100-400 lens

Best Camera Bodies For Night Photography

First up we have included some excellent camera bodies which have sensors ideal for capturing darker scenes. Generally most modern cameras are equipped with highly capable sensors however we’ve collated these models for anyone looking for a practical night sky camera.

  1. Canon EOS RA Astrophotography version - which includes an infrared filter
  2. The Sony a7 III Body is renowned for its low light capabilities and clean high ISO images
  3. Nikon D850 Body - the latest Nikon DSLR features a full-frame high resolution sensor which can virtually see in the dark. Clean high ISO images results in a worthy night time capable camera
  4. The brand new Sony a7S III camera has been released in July 2020 and is perfect for nigh photography with incredible low light performance and brand new sensor. Read all about the a7S III in our blog post here.

A wide angle lens was used to capture more night sky

Shooting planets requires powerful super telephoto lenses to get as close as possible. For night scenes with larger compositions such as the milky way we would recommend finding the widest lens possible with manual focus and a bright aperture of f/2.8 or lower if possible. However for these purposes we’ll be looking at interchangeable telephoto lenses which will get us as close to planetary action as possible.

Canon mirrorless: Lucky users of Canons EOS R system are now able to enjoy super telephoto primes including the RF 600mm lens and RF 800mm f/11. Add the RF 2x Extender for an incredible 1200mm or 1600mm which is about as close as we can get to the night sky with a camera system. The RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 also accepts extenders and has a brighter aperture together with versatile zoom capabilities.

Nikon D850 with 14-24mm lens - 15 sec. f/2.8 ISO 10,000

For Nikon DSLR users we would consider the Sigma 60-600mm Lens f/4.5- 6.3 an excellent option at a reasonable budget. The more expensive Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF is a prime however it provides superb optics which would happily capture any planet including Jupiter And Saturn.

Sony mirrorless camera users have a range of options which include the fantastic and versatile Sony FE 200-600mm lens. With a variable aperture of f/5.6-6.3 this will capture enough light to deliver a bright and crisp image of our planetary cousins.

Filters for Capturing Planets at Night

The effect of night light pollution without a filter

A handy tip when photographing near light pollution is to add a filter which reduces the amount of stray light pollution which is typically visible in the night sky. This will result in clearer and sharper images as diffused light isn’t disrupting what the sensor captures.

Cokin Clearsky filters are available as a ring or square filter and Hoya Starscape are available in a number of ring filter sizes for different lens threads.

Using a Tripod

Full moon captured from a tripod with faster1/320th sec exposure

Despite being larger in the sky, both Jupiter and Saturn will be small subjects in the sky and a tripod is recommended to get the most stable platform whilst shooting at super telephoto lengths. We have a host of tripods available with the Manfrotto MPRO Aluminium Tripod being a popular choice for combining excellent stability with a good price point. Choose the most stable tripod legs possible and use a remote control or cable release to delay the shutter firing. This reduces camera shake, once again achieving a sharper image.

Using binoculars to View Celestial Beings

Canon EOS Ra with EF 400mm lens - 1024 sec. f/2.8. ISO 1250

For general night sky viewing and to plan a planetary shot, using a pair of binoculars can be both enjoyable and useful. Opticron produce a number of models including the image stabilised Opticron Imagic IS 10x30 Opticron Imagic IS 12x30. Stabilisation helps in the same way as with a telephoto lens, keeping the subject still and more readily viewable. For one of the ultimate pairs of Goggles leading

Swarovski EL 12x50 W B provide superb magnification together with features suitable for star gazing as do the Leica ULTRAVID 12x50 HD-Plus.

Useful Night Sky Photography Accessories

Using a camera controller such as the CamRanger 2 Wireless Tethering And Camera Control provides wireless camera control for most major camera brands. This excellent device allows photographers to remotely control their camera with advanced exposure bracketing and much more. For photographers capturing time-lapse the Syrp Genie Mini II Motion Control Device is a motion device for creating spectacular motion time-lapse.

Milky Way - Canon EOS 1DX Mark II with EF16-35mm lens - 30 sec. f/4. ISO 1600

We hope our customers manage to get out safely to enjoy the phenomenon as well as trying out astronomy and night photography. It really opens up a whole new avenue of possibilities for exploration and subject interest.

This post explains the Jupiter phenomenon currently occurring excellently over at Universal Workshop for those who wish to find out more. Apologies for providing no photographs of Saturn or Jupiter. If any of our customers have any we'd love to see them! You may also want to be inspired by the current Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 Shortlist Gallery. There are some remarkable images which help provide insight into creative compositions and photography ideas.

Don't forget to read our recent blog post about the new Canon EOS R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras. These deliver users the ability to capture beautiful night sky images along with some incredible super telephoto RF lenses, which you can also read about here on our blog.

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