The equipment above is tagged "bird" below. This page lists the photography equipment I own and use in the daylight... Although I do fixed tripod work with it in the dark as well. Here is the imaging equipment dedicated to astronomy.
Nikon D610 (Began using 1/2014)
Nikon D750 (Began using March 2015)
Nikon D850 (Began using December 2017)
10-24mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED AF-S (DX)
14-24mm f2.8 (14-24mm f/2.8G ED) (FX)
17-35 1:2.8D AF-S ED (AFS-Nikkor 17-35 mm f/2.8 ED-IF)
18-200mm VR (18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom Nikkor Lens) (Ken Rockwell Review)
24-85mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S (Ken Rockwell review) (24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor)
24-120mm Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Lens
28mm 1:2.8 AI-S
50mm f1.4 D AF Nikkor
50mm AF f1.8D Nikkor
50mm Zeiss Planar f1.4 ZF.2, manual focus picked up new $425 Jan '16
80-200mm ED 1:2.8 D (AF Nikkor) (Ken Rockwell review)
80-400mm Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens - picked up as a travel lens, weighs 3.45 lbs
105mm 1:2 D DC Portrait Lens
135mm Zeiss f2, Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F Mount supplied by Santa Xmas 2015! This lens is awesome, see the dedicated Zeiss 135mm page here. See the summary review on LensTip.com.
200mm F4 IF-ED Micro Nikkor (LOVE this lens! See extreme close-up dragonflies, for example)
300mm ED 1:4D AF-S (Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S, Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED IF AF-S) (Thom Hogan review)
300mm ED VR II (Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II) (weighs 6.4 lbs)
500mm Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens, 6.8 lbs
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens (Bird lens)
1.7x (AF-S TC-17EII) tele-converters (AF) .55 lbs
Upgraded to the 1.4x to the EIII model as of 2/16
TC-20E III has well worked pretty well with the 300 f.28
Old manual TC's 1.4x (TC-14) and 2x (TC-301)
Nikon Rokinon 14mm f2.8 ED AS IF UMC AE - this seemed sharp for normal photos but had really ugly coma on stars during my tests; sold it after seeing that
105mm 1:2.8 D AF Micro Nikkor (Ken Rockwell info) (great sharp lens, SOLD to brother Phil)
15mm AI-s f3.5 - a fun lens, but not great unless stopped down and superfluous given the 14-24.
18mm 1:3.5 AI-S - great lens but a bit slow for astrophotography and I have this fl covered
Nikon D7000 A nice low-cost DX camera with good (by late 2015 standards) low light performance. Gifted to Phil 12/2015! (more resolution and much better low-light performance than the D200, check out the time-lapse work and a recent planetary conjunction)
24-85mm 1:2.8-4 D AF, IF Aspherical MACRO (1.2) - SOLD
28-80mm 1:3.5-5.8D AF - SOLD
85mm 1:1.4 AIS SOLD
55mm 1:2.8 AI-S (Micro-Nikkor) - SOLD
50mm 1:1.2 AI (Never used it, and I have too many 50's)
Nikon D100 (transitioned from film to digital with this camera) (SOLD)
Nikon D200 (my workhorse for many years, check the lightning pictures with this camera here) (SOLD in 2015 to bro)
Tokina ATX Pro SD 12-24 F4 (IF) DX (SOLD to bro)
Nikon Speedlight SB-80DX (D100)
Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8 - Tried as an alternative to my Nikon 10-24 DX, but coma was bad at f2.8 on my star shots, returned it.
1.4x (AF-S TC-14EII) (Sold to Phil)
Nikon D7200 New 1/16, replaced the old D7000 - then sold to eliminate DX equipment
Nikon D810 - Sold after purchasing D850
Nikon Speedlight SB-800 (Bird flash, I have a "better beamer" flash extender but the jury is out on whether it's worth using)
The connections are: 58mm adapter ring screws on to the lens, then the SX-1 attachment ring snaps on to the adapter. Then the wireless remote speedlights (SB-R200 x 2) snap on to the attachment ring. The flashes can be independently positioned with 15 degree stops.
The thing plugged into the flash shoe is called an IR Panel for Built-in Flash SG-3IR. It allows the on-camera flash to control the micro flash, while blocking the camera flash. The SB-800 flash can also act as a macro flash "commander." The individual flash output may be varied by the commander function.
Comment: I ended up with a number of tripod heads and associated plates and clamps. It became a real burden to keep track of everything, and a tripod head with a clamp is worthless without the plate that fits! I tried to standardize on the Manfrotto RC4 plates, but two of my Manfrotto heads needed different plates. So I am going to Arca Swiss compatible gear. Hejnar Photo makes products allowing you to convert Manfrotto to Arca, check them out.
My heavy-duty (bird) tripod is a Gitzo GT5562LTS Gitzo Series 5 Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod (Long). Got a great deal on a used version of this one; it has 6 leg sections so it takes a while to get set up... But, it collapses into a very small package and is plenty sturdy. Regularly $1300, I picked up a used model for much cheaper. Max height 4' 9" or 57". Folded 18". Weighs 6.5 lbs.
Wimberley WH-200 gimbal head. Awesome, expensive but worth it. I have a F-9 flash bracket and module 6 M-6 extension. I needed the FA-11 adapter to work with my Nikon SC-29 Cord.
I'm trying some video and have a Sennheiser MKE-400 microphone to try to get some bird sounds mostly.
Gitzo GM5561T NEW GITZO GM5561T SERIES 5 TRAVELER 6X MONOPOD 61.2 - (bird) this is a big boy monopod that collapses into a very small package.
Gitzo GT3530S carbon fiber tripod. I picked up an older model Gitzo G318 Carbon Fiber Center Column for this as well. This easily holds the Losmandy Starlapse package. Load capacity 40 lb, 50.4" max height, 24" folded, 4lbs.
My mid-weight rig has Manfrotto 3401 Aluminum tripod legs with removable center column; the column can be mounted horizontally for convenient ground-level macro work. Rated at 13.2 lbs, the legs with no column or head weigh about 5 lbs. The Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared head (rated for 11 lbs) rides on top. This head allows very precise adjustments of camera position, but is not good for rapid movements. The head and the long center column together weigh 3 lbs, for a total weight of 8 lbs when hauling it around. A bit heavy!
Gitzo GT2531EX Series 2 Carbon 6x 3 Section G-Lock Explorer Tripod, load capacity 26.5 lbs, weight 4.1 lb, 67" max ht, 55" without column.
Acratech GV2 Ballhead/Gimbal Head, holds 25 lbs and weighs .76 lbs. I liked it so much I bought another. I use one of these during piggyback astrophotography.
Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 tripod lets (carbon fiber), holds 15.4 lbs, 53" tall and 63" max with column, weighs 3.6 lb
Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head, supports 16.5 lbs and weighs 3.53 lbs. I am using this for the Losmandy Starlapse (and it's the only thing that I still use RC4 plates with!)
Manfrotto Heavy Telephoto Lens Support with Quick Release, MFR # 393, replaces #3421. Supports up to 44 lbs but it's a heavy sucker at 3.5 lbs all by itself. I contacted Hejnar Photo about converting this to an Arca Swiss clamp. He didn't have a custom solution for the 393 but he created one! See this link. All that said I finally bit the bullet and bought a Wimberly head, WH-200.
Arca Swiss Monoball Z1, new 2016, has an absurd load capacity listed at 130 lb! I weighs 1.4 lbs though, 635 grams or 22.7 oz. I don't like the dual plate support, I had my big lens engaged a bit on the smaller fitting and thought it was secure; lucky it didn't fall off the tripod!
Really Right Stuff Plates, etc: LCF-14 replacement foot for Nikon 300 f2.8, BD750-L for the D750 (4.1 oz 116g), BD810-L for D810A (3.6 oz or 102gm), MPR-73 mounts on the lens foot for the 200mm Micro.
Kirk Monopod Head MPA-2, 14.3 oz, 405g
Markins Q-Ball Q3... Markins Q-Ball Q3i Emille with Quick Turn Knob Quick Shoe Red, 375 grams (0.83 lb), max load claimed at 65 lb (!). This is another one I use for piggyback astrophotography.
Magicball mini, Novoflex MagicBall Mini Ballhead (12 oz, 337g, 1/4 20 mount, no plate)
Desmond 140 plate 4.1 oz
There are 16 ounces in a pound!
My older heavy rig featured Manfrotto 3068 video tripod legs (very heavy at 15 lbs, supports up to 40 lbs) and 501HDV Pro Video head rated at 13.3 lbs. I have used this with small telescopes (e.g., FSQ-85) or 70mm binoculars on this rig but it's at the edge of what the video head can manage.
A mid-weight alternative head for the 3401 Aluminum tripod was theManfrotto 488RC4 Midi Ball Head with RC4 System (Quick Release) rated to 17.6lbs. I kept this head mounted on the extra center column for quick change-outs with the 410 head. The 488RC4 is somewhat heavy at 1 lb 7 oz and I am not planning to use it any longer.
My light-weight rig rides on Slik Pro 713 CF legs rated to 11 lbs and features a mini Magic Ball head rated at 11 lbs from Novoflex. The one of the Slik legs stopped working properly (but it's usable) so this is now strictly a backup. It has a 1/4 20 post, non-standard. Looks like the Slik weights about 3.1 lbs and the ball head .72 lbs.
Gitzo GH2750 Series 2 Magnesium Off Center Ball Head, holds 11 lbs and weights 1.1 lb
CowboyStudio Panoramic Gimbal Tripod Head BK-45 Specialized 1/4-Inch Screw For Telephoto Len Camera - I grabbed one of these when the price dropped into the $60-70 range. Cheap-ish and haven't had a chance to use it yet.
Sirui L-10 Tilt Head, weighs 11.5 oz (.72lb) and supports a claimed 33 lbs! Wow! It is passable with my 300 f2.8 and camera at just under 10 lbs, but I'm not sure how much more weight I'd want to put on it. Sirui Tilt Head L-10 for Monopods including Quick Release Plate, holds 33 lbs and weighs 0.725 lbs. I tried it with my 300mm f2.8 lens, and it kind of works but is far from ideal. I ended up crunching my thumb one time when I wasn't paying enough attention, and I'm not going down that road again. It works OK for my 200mm f4 macro. See Kirk Monopod head.
My heavy rig features Manfrotto 3068 video tripod legs (very heavy at around 15 lbs, but supports up to 40 lbs). I was using this with the Losmandy Starlapse, but since then went with a Gitzo solution and left the heavy stuff at home.
As of late 2015 and into 2016 I'm looking to shrink my equipment collection overall, but to add a few high-quality camera lenses suitable for astrophotography.... Something in the 135mm to 200mm range, a great 50mm lens, and perhaps one or two excellent wide-angle lenses. I want sharpness, coma control, and minimal chromatic aberration. Here are some relevant links:
Ron Brunswold wide angle lenses for the night sky
A lot of people like Rokinon lenses but note there have been reports of significant problems with sample quality. I got a 14mm but it had ugly coma on stars, though seemed ok for daylight shots. Dave Kingham has some comparisons. Here's a nice comparison of 50mm lenses (Sigma Art, Nikon 50mm f1.4G, and Zeiss 55mm Otus). The new Zeiss Milvus 50mm maybe a contender, here's a review showing maybe OK coma at f1.4, but no other fstop. The Sigma 20mm is explored here. The Nikon 20mm f1.8 may be a contender.
|Buying a Telescope - general information||
|Computer Equipment - What I'm using now|
|Processing Astrophotos||Old: Olympus C4040 Zoom||Old: Nikon D100 Images|
|Basic Astrophotography||For Sale|
Here is an interesting document with canon lens references and test results
Dick's Pix (Dick Locke's Image Page)
Dick Locke's Home Page
by Dick Locke.
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Contact and Image Use Information
SOLD! Canon 20Da (This camera is optimized for astronomy, and I even replaced the stock filter to get better performance)
18-55 EFS 1:3.5-5.6 II USM, 58mm filter
35mm EF 1:2 - SOLD!
50mm EF 1:1.8 II