View Full Version : Latest Digital Cameras with Optical Zoom lenses

2011-Dec-26, 08:00 PM
Some of the latest consumer digital cameras have CCD densities above 16 Megapixels with 10x optical zoom lenses and they cost less than $200.

I was wondering if anyone has used these cameras directly, on a motorized mount, for astrophotography, or if they could be used for any kind of decent astrophotography?

2011-Dec-26, 08:37 PM
The biggest drawback to a camera for use in astrophotography would be the lack of shutter control. I think most high end cameras have that, but not in the $200 range. In the right environment, where there's little light pollution, a regular camera might be able to get many of the brighter stars, but the ones you see that have a sky full of stars, the Milky Way, nebulas, etc, are made by exposing for minutes, and since you mentioned a motorized mount, that's probably what you're looking for.

2011-Dec-26, 09:28 PM
Don't fall for the megapixel trap. Its pure hype and very meaningless at best and a bad idea for astrophotography. To get in more pixels they must be smaller and thus capture fewer photons for a dimmer image for any given exposure time. Exactly the opposite of what you want when imaging the sky. Zoom lenses on such cameras need be stopped down a couple stops or the stars are sharp only in the center of the image. Can you do this? Again, that dims the image. You need full control of everything to do this type of photography. As Rhaedas suggests, I doubt this is possible. A early Cannon DSLR such as the 350 on the used market would be a far better deal in my opinion. Costs about $100 more but is a far superior camera for this purpose.


2011-Dec-26, 09:40 PM

Just the first link I ran across, but it goes into a lot more detail of the what and why. Summary is that you'll need the higher end camera features for most astrophotography. You might be able to get away with a cheaper camera for planetary pictures or general open sky photos. The biggest problem I see is can you get enough light in for a decent picture. I don't think a $200 camera will be able to do that for most things outside maybe the Moon.

2011-Dec-26, 11:59 PM
Thanks for the quick responses.

It was just a thought -- about using cheap digital cameras -- and I kinda' anticipated the responses you guys provided.

I didn't see any other posts on the subject (recently, anyway).

2011-Dec-27, 04:37 PM
Is there no way to attach a shutter control remote to these new cameras? That is really all that is missing, being able to talk exposures longer than 15 seconds.

It would be nice to be able to pick up an affordable camera that can be used for astrophotography.

2011-Dec-27, 08:28 PM
Not mentioned above, in that price range, the cameras have very little light gathering power. They are made for shooting pictures in daylight.

2011-Dec-27, 09:04 PM
I have one of the new 'super zoom' cameras. It's great (though not used for astrophotos in any capacity); but as others have stated doesn't do real well in anything less than full daylight simply because these new super zoom cameras still use the tiny (thumbnail size) CCD's that don't gather light well, regardless of how many pixels they have. You're better off with a DSLR type camera with a much larger CCD chip - even if it's rated at fewer pixels than any point n' shoot camera (zoom or not).

2011-Dec-28, 02:00 AM
There are, on the other hand, those new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, which have full size sensors, but they're about as expensive as regular DSLRs.

2011-Dec-28, 08:57 PM
I have an older canon S3is (less than 10 megapixels and a 12x optical zoom) and my experience in the field is nil. I had fun a while ago taking shots of the moon and jupiter which came out well, but the camera has obvious limitations. It's great for playing around with, but not to put in actual work.

It cost me $500 CAN when I bought it and does not allow a remote shutter cable. You must plug the camera into a computer to have shutter control. Also, the camera can only take compressed images. I've tried 15 second exposures but there's just way too much noise on the CCD. Even dark frames don't help much. I get a lot of 'blue' noise. Stacking helps a lot, but doesn't it always?

For the sake of taking a picture of stars, I would want raw images and less noise. For the moon, I've never had success with exposures over 1 second. It's just too bright to need that. Likewise with Jupiter, about a 1 second exposure is fine otherwise Jupiter's glare dwarfs its moons.

I've attached the best moon shot I have. For a stack of 10 photos, it's not bad. It's barely better than naked eye, and contrast was cheated to make the background pitch black. The field of view is at 12x zoom. Apparently, a scope would be required to get the zoom needed for the moon to fill the field.