Astrophotography with Smartphones

When doing visual observing at a telescope, I find myself wishing I could record the image.  I know some people sketch but sketching isn’t for me.   Astrophotography with a connected DSLR or dedicated camera is great but that isn’t visual observing.  So, I have been very interested in the concept of afocal astrophotography.  I earlier got an adapter for an old point-and-shot camera but was a lot of work to get the camera positioned and then figure out all the controls.  Again, I could use the DSLR.  But, then I found an article about using a smartphone.  So, I purchased a couple of adapters which sat gathering dust.  But, going to make it a goal to figure out afocal photography using a smartphone.

I first step was to do some researching on the Internet. A number of article I found are below.  Here are my takeaways:

  • Smartphones can take adequate images through the eyepieces.  This is partial due to the increasing technology in each new smartphone model.
  • An adapter is necessary to hold the smartphone steady over the eyepiece.
  • Something is necessary to take the picture to avoid movement
  • Dedicated apps will probably help with the process but curious how the native camera controls do.

The next step will be to re-review the two adapters I have.

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Orion SteadyPix Quick Smartphone Adapter Review

I noticed a new product was being released called the Orion SteadyPix Quick Smartphone Adapter.  I had been researching the options for afocal astrophotography.  I have purchased a Carson HookUpz 2.0 and a different model of the SteadyPix Deluxe

One of the first thing interesting about the SteadyPix Quick was the price which was around $23 at the time I purchased.  So, I decided to give it a try.

The instructions were straightforward.  It easily expanded to hold the smartphone and then the eyepiece clamp move diagonally to align with the camera lens.  The eyepiece clamp then twist-locked around an eyepiece.  This provided for a very secure connection.

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Afocal Astrophotography on LightBridge

The first step on astrophotography on the LightBridge was to attempt an afocal setup using a Canon PowerShot SD780 IS point-and-shot camera.  After the counterweight issue was resolved, the next issue was to get the camera into position using the Orion SteadyPix Deluxe Camera Mount.  The SteadyPix was completely adjustable but also made it more confusing to get everything to align but finally I did. 

One problem was getting the image to look centered in the camera and also not have random spots displayed.  I zoomed in a little and that fixed the issue.

Once the image looked good, I experimented with camera settings.  I switched to the P mode manual option.  I then set the ISO to either 1600 or 800.  I changed the metering to “spot” but left it on Auto White Balance (AWB).  I set it to the highest resolution JPG files.  I turned off all flash settings.  Lastly, I set the self-timer to 2 seconds to avoid any motion after clicking the shutter.

I took some test shots of an electrical pole in the distance.  Overall, the images were fine though not as focused as looking through the eyepiece but the next step will be to try with astronomy objects.

Overall, the setup was fine but the SteadyPix was a little too complicated to get everything set.  I had to remove the camera a number of times to remove the SD card to check the results on my computer.  That wasn’t really the fault of the SteadyPix but made the overall configuration less than ideal. 

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