Sunday, April 19, 2009


Digital Vs. Film

Is film dead? That’s the easy part, the question. The answer is a complex one. The short answer is no but it is on life support. With that said there will always be folk that will hang on to a dieing art, preserving it in my opinion. I will always appreciate that (I still cannot give up my eight track player). The last foothold that film had over digital was the long exposure, you know like a polar star trails pix. Digital has begun conquer that last barrier my friends.

The Spotmatic was my first SLR camera I loved that thing. It took great pictures I realize this Camera is an old one but it a solid piece of equipment. This is the Camera I did my early Astrophotography with. I would use Kodak Tri X pan film. I never used anything else ever… As I am older and thinking of Getting back into the Game, I see Film is drying up discontinued families of film every where. That worries me a bit. With film, you need the film to be sensitive on the red side of things. Most are not or have been chopped off by the film maker. You also need it to be a finer grain like a 100- 200 or even a 25 is super fine grain and kicks booty for some astro eye candy. This is not to say that a 400 will not work it is just a bit grainy for me You do not need a computer and this and that for a film camera so there is a good point. Kodak has made it clear they will be getting out of the film biz eventually. Fuji film has some very nice offerings for right now but who knows how long. Processing film is a chore too. Astro pix need to be tweaked differently so you cannot just go down to Wallyworld and expect Sky and Telescope worthy photos. Developing your own work is satisfying but expensive to get going and to top it off the wife will not let me turn the half bath into a dark room! So lets say that is finally over for film ( perish the thought). My Spotmatic has become a paperweight. If film is to go away, then what do I need to get to take astro shots?

Digital is the future for photos. So OK I need Digital, so now what do I get? Budget is a big concern to us all. Personally I dedicate my cameras so this is not a concern for me but flexibility is for some as you might want to shoot the family get together with your camera Saturday afternoon then shoot globular clusters that night. And last but not least you want to see easy to use printed in big letters right on the box. Not to put too fine a point on this, but as I see it you have two choices, A DSLR camera like a Cannon EOS Rebel or D 40/50. Cannon followed by Nikon are the leaders in astrophotography and they take a great terrestrial shot. Now those cameras are going to set you back some bucks. They cost $800 for a rebel to say $1,300 for the D50 body give or take. Then you are going to need some accessories. There are lenses, cable release processing software to name a few. Pile on some more jack and there goes the family vacation but hey you will have a very nice camera to use on the next one. Funny thing was my wife would not buy into that! Go figure… A D50 is my Dream Camera but that is not going to happen any time soon

Dedicated Astro cameras. These cameras are for astrophotography and nothing else. They are very good at what they do. SBIG Cameras, Apogee, Luminera. They are at the high end of the game at $8000 or even higher. Most of these brands have a more affordable line as well but I wanted to show you how high it can go. Then there are the entry level CCD /CMOS cams, Namely Meade and Orion. At a price line of $300 to $1300 they deliver on ease and price but they are not as flexible. The cameras do a great job versus the cost. You will need a laptop for the camera to connect to but in this day and age most folks that are doing this kind of hobby have them. The cameras come with very serviceable software. As you grow in this hobby you will want to get the application Photoshop to finalize the shot. Here is the plus side of this thing. When and if you outgrow your Orion or Meade you can easily turn it into a guide camera. It is not a dead end investment. I like that very much. Then there are webcams. Many people have had decent luck with these cams for Planetary work. Like the Phillips Toucam. cheap workable but you must make mods to it. If you are a tinker type person you know what to do. They just don't cut the mustard DSO wise.

There are folks here in your local club that do it all from film to digital. They can point out the finer points to a great slice of our hobby. Pick their brain. They may have a different take on things. I love that because you can take everything in and make your mind up. I know that is what I did!

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