Pro Picks

As­tronomer Wei-Hao Wang, who works at the Canada-France-Hawaii Te­le­scope in Hawaii, shares his es­sen­tial photo kit

NPhoto - - Contents - You can see Wei-Hao’s astropho­tog­ra­phy im­ages at www.flickr.com/photos/wei­haowang and at www.as­trobin.com/users/wh­wang/

As­tronomer Wei-Hao Wang re­veals the kit that helps him reach for the stars

MOD­I­FIED NIKON D800 (SIN CE SU­PER­SEDED BY THE D810, £2350, $2999; CON­VER­SION £200, $350)

What’s it for? My D800’s IR-block­ing fil­ter has been re­placed with a fil­ter that al­lows deep-red H-al­pha light from ce­les­tial ob­jects to reach the sen­sor.

Plus points In­cred­i­ble res­o­lu­tion, low ther­mal noise for long ex­po­sures.

Mi­nus marks The D800’s EX­PEED 3 en­gine re­moves use­ful data from the NEF file. This can be fixed by a firmware hack, and it’s ad­dressed in EX­PEED 4.

SIGMA 50MM F/1.4 DG HSM |A (£700, $950)

What’s it for? The 50mm fo­cal length is use­ful for Milky Way and con­stel­la­tion pic­tures. I of­ten use it to pro­duce ‘find­ing charts’ to as­sist with tar­get se­lec­tion for deeper imag­ing with tele­scopes of 500mm to 1100mm fo­cal lengths.

Plus points Ex­tremely high over­all im­age qual­ity.

Mi­nus marks This is nit­pick­ing, but it pro­duces coma dis­tor­tion at the ex­treme corners, even when stopped down to f/4.

VIXEN AD­VANCED PO­LARIS SM EQUA­TO­RIAL MOUNT AND TRI­POD (£1200, $1200)

What’s it for? A mo­tor­driven equa­to­rial mount is re­quired to au­to­mat­i­cally track the mo­tion of stars across the sky, to en­able long ex­po­sures.

Plus points Light­weight, but suf­fi­cient pay­load to sup­port a small te­le­scope. Set-up is quick and easy. The tri­pod is solid and the over­all sys­tem is sta­ble.

Mi­nus marks The track­ing ac­cu­racy is only fair for the price.

AP­PLE 13-INCH MACBOOK AIR (£999, $1199)

What’s it for? Soft­ware is used to con­trol cam­eras and tele­scopes, and I run var­i­ous astropho­tog­ra­phy pro­grams. A lap­top is also handy for im­age pro­cess­ing.

Plus points I can run many as­tron­omy pro­grams, and im­age-edit­ing tools like Pho­to­shop, si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Mi­nus marks Many as­tro tools are Win­dows-only (I use Par­al­lels Desk­top). Not enough power for all-night use – I take a small marine bat­tery as back-up.

DIGICAMCONTROL RE­MOTE CON­TROL APP (FREE)

What’s it for? It can re­motely con­trol D-SLRs from Win­dows com­put­ers to make se­quenced bulb ex­po­sures and dis­play Live View im­ages on the large lap­top screen for man­ual fo­cus­ing and fram­ing on faint stars.

Plus points It’s free! Plus it has all the ba­sic func­tions re­quired for astropho­tog­ra­phy.

Mi­nus marks Win­dow­sonly. Not bug-free, although bugs are fixed quickly.

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