Easy methods to Modify Your DSLR for Astrophotography

July 16, 2019 - Comment

Modifying my DSLR digital camera was the neatest factor I might have executed for my astrophotography. This is why. A DSLR is a superbly wonderful digital camera for stepping into astrophotography. Previous blogs have detailed how finest to make use of a DSLR for nightscapes and lunar pictures, and I’ve used DSLR information as examples

Modifying my DSLR digital camera was the neatest factor I might have executed for my astrophotography. This is why.

A DSLR is a superbly wonderful digital camera for stepping into astrophotography. Previous blogs have detailed how finest to make use of a DSLR for nightscapes and lunar pictures, and I’ve used DSLR information as examples for explanations of how cameras work and stretching, even dedicating an installment to determining the perfect ISO to make use of on your personal digital camera.

Clip In

A DSLR digital camera is maybe probably the most versatile instrument obtainable to novice astronomers. It will probably document nightscapes, deep-sky photographs, lunar and planetary movies, in addition to daytime pictures.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

Professionals & Cons


Inventory DSLRs carry out splendidly on reflection nebulae.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

Like many endeavors, selecting tools includes trade-offs. However earlier than we speak about these, I’ll say first DSLR is the one most versatile digital camera you’ll be able to personal. Not solely can you utilize it for deep-sky work, but additionally lunar and planetary pictures, nightscapes, in addition to daytime pictures. A DSLR will not be my very favourite digital camera for deep-sky work, but when for some purpose I might solely maintain a single digital camera, it might be one in all my DSLRs. An off-the-shelf DSLR works splendidly for many astro-imaging. Additionally they work very nicely on star clusters (each open and globular), reflection nebulae, and most galaxies.

The principle compromise concerned in utilizing a DSLR as an alternative of a devoted astronomical digital camera is  temperature regulation. Cooling a digital camera makes an incredible discount in darkish present noise, and lots of imagers will go to some lengths to chill their DSLR’s, or they’re going to buy a DSLR that has a cooling unit put in as an after-market add-on. Nonetheless, this is probably not fascinating to those that wish to additionally use the digital camera for daytime pictures, because it turns into too awkward. I’d simply as quickly use a devoted, cooled astro-camera.

Before and After

Enhanced sensitivity to hydrogen-alpha emission can profit objects like this emission nebula, as proven on this earlier than and after picture.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

The opposite benefit of a devoted astro-camera is its sensitivity to pink gentle on the wavelength referred to as hydrogen-alpha. Gentle at this wavelength dominates emission nebula, and in some close by galaxies it reveals the place knots of star-forming exercise is happening.

The imaging sensor within the DSLR is definitely simply as delicate as most different astro-cameras to the hydrogen-alpha wavelength; nevertheless, for daytime use, DSLRs are manufactured with a filter that blocks deep pink by means of infrared (IR) gentle in a means typical astro-camera with an IR/UV cut-off filter doesn’t. Luckily, there’s a method to make your DSLR extra delicate to this gentle and produce out these particulars in your deep sky photographs.

Modifying Your Digicam

The method is kind of easy. First, void the guarantee in your digital camera by opening it up. Take away the elements and electronics till you get to the optical window above the sensor and take away it. Now substitute it with clear glass or an IR-blocking filter that’s much less aggressive and lets the hydrogen-alpha wavelength by means of. Then merely reassemble the digital camera. It is easy!  All you want is a screw driver and a few tutorial YouTube movies!

White Balance

Customized white steadiness turns your modified DSLR again into an everyday daytime digital camera.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

Okay, so if the above paragraph doesn’t terrify you, have enjoyable! For me, this can be a non-starter. Luckily, there are ample sources the place you should purchase a digital camera pre-modified, or companies that can take your current digital camera and modify it for you.

For instance, Astro Hutech will promote you a brand new modified digital camera with a one-year guarantee. I didn’t find out about this after I purchased a brand-new Canon 5D Mark II and despatched it out for modification. Chilly sweat was dripping from my forehead as I packed it up, figuring out my guarantee was void on a model new and costly digital camera that I used to be not going to have the ability to afford to buy twice. My present advice for the price range minded? Purchase a used Insurgent off eBay and get it modified. It is an important worth and produces an enormous bang for the buck.

There are two sorts of modifications chances are you’ll be fascinated by. The usual one offers a sensor cowl plate that filters IR/UV however permits the hydrogen-alpha wavelength to move by means of. All photographs can have a reddish solid to them, however that is simply balanced in post-processing. Not solely do you seize extra sign to work with for emission objects, however you too can nonetheless use the digital camera for daytime pictures (sometimes with a customized white steadiness setting).

IR Example

There are variety of monochrome and even colorized infrared strategies that can be utilized for terrestrial targets.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

Another choice is Full Spectrum modification. I’ve been by means of three modified DSLR’s myself, and my final one was modified on this means. This selection locations a transparent cowl over the sensor with the intention to move by means of all wavelengths. Now, your DSLR is delicate to ultraviolet and infrared gentle. In case your optics are all reflective, you’ll be able to seize extra sign this manner. Most of us have some refractive parts (the place gentle passes by means of glass), and lots of of those should not corrected very far exterior the seen spectrum, which means this ultraviolet and infrared gentle can be unfocused in comparison with seen wavelengths, so for common astrophotography, you’ll nonetheless want an IR/UV filter exterior the digital camera, or you need to use a handy clip-in filter system (seen within the picture on the prime of the web page).

My principal purpose for selecting full-spectrum modification is in order that I can shoot infrared pictures. I take advantage of an IR-pass filter on the Moon regularly, and daytime IR pictures can be an fascinating pursuit. At longer IR wavelengths, the Bayer filter matrix in your colour sensor is actually opaque and you are able to do monochrome IR imaging. At decrease IR wavelengths you continue to get some colour. Some colour manipulation strategies of IR photographs may be fairly lovely.

Emission objects

The Milky Means core reveals many emission nebula, which actually “pop” with a modified DSLR.
Richard S. Wright Jr.

However a modified DSLR is not only for taking pictures the deep sky! Strive it in your nightscapes too, particularly with the Milky Means included. Emission nebulae that are barely perceptible in a inventory digital camera will pop spectacularly with a modified DSLR.

My first DSLR was the unique Canon EOS Digital Insurgent. I used to be afraid to get it modified for greater than two years, however after I lastly took the plunge, I noticed what I would been lacking. I’ve traded a couple of cameras since then, and I’ve some good devoted astro-cameras at my disposal. Nonetheless, I typically attain for a DSLR, and my trusty full-spectrum EOS T3i nonetheless usually collects photons.

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