Afocal Adapter for non-DSLR digital cameras:
For the longest time, the only way I could take pictures through my telescopes has been simply to hold the camera up to the eyepiece, try and hold steady and control my breathing, and snap away.
After remembering to remove the lens cap, turn the bloody thing on, then turn the flash off…I would finally get a few pictures. They almost always came out blurry or completely black because the angle of the lens didn’t line up with the field of view of the objective lens in the telescope.
After spending countless hours and who knows how many deleted images in frustration I began to search around for a way to connect my cameras to the telescope.
I have seen people rig up things for their cell phones. Mine is too temperamental to fiddle with the telescope. I’ve tried and the images are…primitive. My old Nokia cellphone however took great images (for a phone!). Here’s Saturn, snapped with the cellphone. I was never able to get a better shot with the phone other than this. Of course the little Nokia performed well on the Moon too:
I was happy that the cellphone was doing so well, but I wanted better. So, I tried using the Fujifilm Finepix S700 we have—it has a 10x optical zoom and gave some great results on the moon but it took a lot of work to get just a few pictures that didn’t have the annoying secondary mirror shadow in the middle of the image. I still can’t figure a way around that. It took a LOT of processing to get this image, but the camera still did a pretty good job, I think!
I have tried the Canon 1000D (also known as the Digital Rebel XS) I have but with all it’s power, the lens is massive compared to the eyepiece. It too gives a very strong shadow in the middle of the image. That bad boy needs a direct hookup with a t-adapter and t-ring. But, on a Dobsonian like I have, the focal plane is just not in reach. So I’d have to modify the telescope with a low profile focuser ($$$) or move the primary mirror forward (surgery? I think not!). However, if you have a strong, steady hand, you can get some tremendous photos. Here’s one of the best (of about 50 I took that night) of the Moon from December 31, 2010:
The solution (until I screw up the courage to operate on the TYCO that is): use the Casio Exilim EX-z70 pocket digital camera we have. The lens has a 4x optical zoom, and it’s small enough to fit inside the eyepiece rim of all my objectives. I needed a way to get it aligned easily every time and hold it there.
Enter the adapter I made (I couldn’t see spending $30-$40 for a rig that I could make myself…somehow). With two kids and me staying home to raise them the astronomy (and any hobby) budget is extremely tight. Like non-existent tight.
I found the idea online in a YouTube video in 2011…you can watch it here. I guess the kids call it “digiscoping”. Works for me. Anyway, I followed the video and came up with this:
Instead of using rubber from an old tire (what?) I used some craft foam I had laying around (about $.80 a sheet at your local craft store) to line the inside of the curled up soda bottle. It serves 2 purposes. (1) it makes the fit around the eyepiece and the camera lens nice and snug without damaging anything. (2) the black foam creates flocking for the inside of the adapter tube.
Also, I don’t have a bandsaw so I used scissors to trim the thing to shape. A bandsaw. Really? Gutsy.
It’s remarkably stable and secure—I don’t worry about the camera falling off at all! And because I’m not holding the camera, it stays in one place and is stable, allowing me to use my hands to move the telescope to adjust the image as the stars and planets drift through the field of view. Genius!
Mobile Base for the Texas Yard Cannon:
Dobs are great telescopes, but they are big and cumbersome (over about 6″ in aperture). My 8″ Yard Cannon is just big enough that sitting on a chair makes it just below eye level. Yet if I stand up, it’s woefully short. My solution? Build a base to raise the telescope (when about pointed about halfway up the sky—basically the ecliptic) so that I could stand and the eyepiece would be at a comfortable height. Of course, it would have to have wheels to make viewing that much more convenient. Just wheel it out of the garage and onto the driveway.
Simple enough. I built it out of scrap 2x4s and other bits of wood I had laying around. Cost me $3 in paint (contractor 99 cents a can paint at Depot), $18 in casters (two 3-inch casters $3 ea., and two 3-inch swivel casters $6 ea.) and $2 for a pair of hinges. Has a little table on a hinge that lowers when it’s stored in the garage out of the way. My wife thinks it looks like a black hot water heater in the corner of the garage (I store OTA vertical). Crude but it serves it’s purpose. I’m fixin to upgrade the hard plastic casters with some rubber or pneumatic wheels from Harbor Freight by Christmas. The casters tended to give a rougher ride than I thought on smooth concrete and like to get stuck in the grooves of my driveway.
Here is the simple base, naked.