Even though this is astrophotography with the A7iii, you can take these principles and use them with pretty much any camera. The older the camera, the worse it will be at high ISO levels, but if it is younger than 5 years old, it should do a very good job!

If you have an APS-C camera, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsMxQMV28Zo&

Lenses I use in this video:

  • Samyang 14mm f2.8 (canon with MC-11 adapter)
  • Samyang 24mm f1.4
  • Zeiss Batis 25mm FE f2

Recomended lenses:

  • Zeiss Batis 18mm f2.8 FE
  • Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/2 FE
  • Loxia 21mm f2.8 FE

Timecodes: 

  • 0:00​ – Intro
  • 0:25​ – Kit for Astrophotography
  • 1:56​ – Step by step instruction
  • 2:43​ – Focussing on the stars
  • 3:33​ – Refining your photo
  • 4:15​ – The 500 Rule
  • 5:18​ – Photopills
  • 5:42​ – Results from the A7iii
  • 5:55​ – Outro

Shooting the stars

This week I will be showing you how to photograph the stars with your a7iii

Shooting the stars, or astrophotography, is one of those specialist sides to photography. You don’t need to have fancy kit, but it does help. 

As there is very little light about, the camera needs to be good at low light capture and the Sony a7iii has been reported as being great in low light. Also your lens needs to be as fast as you can possibly afford.

I usually shoot with the Sony A7rii, so I want to see how the a7iii compares with it. 

I normally use two different lenses, the samyang 14mm f2.8 and the Zeiss Batis 25mm f2.

With the samyang, it is a really wide lens, and surprisingly sharp for the price I paid for it. The batis is a little tighter but is a phenomenal lens. I switch between the two, sometimes the batis is my favourite and other times the samyang is my favourite. 

So these are the steps.

  1. Put your camera on a tripod
  2. Turn the mode dial to manual
  3. Turn on the self timer (to 2 seconds). 
  4. Turn off the IBIS and if you lens has image stabilisation, turn that off as well
  5. Turn off long exposure NR
  6. Change the file type to RAW
  7. Change to Uncompressed RAW (if you are using a sony camera)
  8. If you are using a zoom, zoom out as wide as possible
  9. Make sure the back display is on
  10. Switch to manual focus
  11. If you have a marker on your lens, set your focus to infinity. If you don’t…..This is the hardest part and I explain this after point 14.
  12. Set your iso to about 10,000
  13. Set the aperture as wide as possible
  14. Set your shutter speed to about 6 seconds

To focus with a modern lens that has no focus markings on the focus ring, find a bright star that you can see on your display (you might have to turn the brightness up a little and hunt around…you might even have to change the framing but just make sure you can see a bright star in your frame) …then press the magnify button making sure the bright star is in the magnify area. 

  1. Switch to manual focus
  2. Turn your focus ring until you can see the star clearly and in focus. This might take some going back and forth, but you’ll notice a point at which it is in focus as much as you’ll be able to get with the lens you have.
  3. Once you get the focus to that point, keep the focus in manual and try not to touch it. You should check your photos every now and then to make sure they are still in focus as every now and then you can inadvertently knock the lens, or brush against the focus ring bringing it away from that point.
  4. Come out of the magnify mode if you have had to focus using this method. 
  5. Take a shot.
  6. Depending on the moonlight and any ambient light from any cities near-by, your shot might be over exposed.
  7. If so, increase your shutter-speed………..This first step with having a really high ISO and relatively fast shutter speed is merely to quickly find a pleasing composition. (with the sony, there is a function called bright monitoring – if you have a sony you can use this instead of bumping the iso up so high)
  8. Once you’ve got good composition and exposure, start bringing your iso down and lengthen your shutter speed.

Just don’t make your shutter speed too long though….otherwise the stars will start to streak from the rotation of the earth. 

To work out what shutter speed you can shoot at before the stars start to streak you need to use the 500 rule. 

To do this, divide 500 by the focal length. I used to use the 600 rule but it seems as though the 500 rule works a little better. To be honest, with a really fast lens and a these modern cameras, you can be a little more conservative with the shutter speed. 

With the 500 rule and the 14mm, I take 500 and divide it by 14… 500/14=35.714 …so my maximum shutter speed would be 35-36 seconds. 

With the 25mm, my max shutter speed would be 20 seconds. (500/25=20)

Then it’s just a case of coming up with interesting compositions and and following the patterns of the moon and the stars to see what might give an interesting sky. 

I only really dabble in this field taking wide shots with the milky way or the moon or a star-lit sky. If you do some research on line you’ll find so many amazing photographs especially the deep-space photographs of nebulas, gas clouds and planets. But this needs tracking equipment, telescopes and things like that, so it can get expensive, really quickly. Also, the kit that deep space astrophotographers have is immense…I sometimes go out shooting with two friends who are into this … I will have taken about 20 or so shots before they have even taken one frame…and with deep space astrophotography, it is all about capturing data and imaging to compile the shot later. I do tip my hat to these guy so if you are a deep space astrophotographer, I commend your dedication…I just prefer having a camera and a tripod to capture single images of the night sky over interesting landscapes…I’m really a landscape photographer who sometimes puts stars and the milkyway above my landscapes by going out at night instead of in the day!! 😆

So if you go out and try astrophotography with your camera and tripod, and enjoy this type of photography, it’s worth getting a fast manual prime for your A7iii. You have lots to choose from depending on your budget, from the cheaper Samyang 14mm 2.8 lenses to the more expensive batis 18mm and the laowa 15mm f2….this one is definitely on my shopping list…and now sony have the 24mm f1.4, the 20mm f1.8 and just recently, they have released the 14mm f1.4. I am so looking forward to trying this one out when I can get my hands on it. With an aperture of f1.8 at 14mm, this could be an absolute beast for astrophotography!

So that’s about it. I hope this helps you and your astrophotography with the a7iii. I know this camera will be in my bag for a long time….every time I go out under the stars. 

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Thanks

Mike

mike@boxheadmike.com

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