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Thread: Camcorder for shooting the night sky

  1. #1

    Default Camcorder for shooting the night sky

    Hello! I'm new to this forum, but I'm confident from what I've read that you folks can help answer my questions.

    I'm looking at buying a camcorder to record the night sky. I'm hoping to record shooting stars and lights in the sky or long periods of time but I'm having difficulty figuring out which camera to purchase. I'm really a novice in regards to camcorders, but I was thinking the Canon HF20 looked like a good choice, since it has 32GB of built in memory, shoots in full 1080 HD, and it felt nice when I used it at Best Buy. If you think this is not the right camera, please suggest a better one for this specific purpose of shooing the sky at night for long durations.

    I was hoping to stay in the $500-$700 range if at all possible. However, if I'll need a more expensive camera to shoot the night sky, I'd be willing to spend more.

    Thank you all for your help! I really appreciate it!

  2. #2

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    Hey randolph,

    Although not a direct answer to your question one thing to watch out for is the fact that filming the night sky in my experience is very hard. The cameras I tried just saw blackness. An important thing to consider is how the camera performs in low light.

    When I tried the camera recorded blackness with no clear distinction between anything as the camera struggled to see the difference between a a tiny star and the night sky

    As I said, no real help but hopefully food for though

  3. #3
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    Default

    The Canon is a blinding camcorder and worth every penny but...

    For what you want, a consumer camcorder isn't going to make it. All camcorders need light, quite a lot of it in fact. The manufacturers claim that their camcorders work in candlelight, which they do by artificially boosting the signal, causing electronic noise. Your night sky will end up looking like a grainy mess.

    I would suggest using a stills camera to record the stars (it's not like they move enough to warrant a "movie" camera) and incorporate the images into your video using panning and zooming of the still image to give the impression of movement.

    Even with a decent CMOS chip you need exposures of a half a second or more to get stars to record, this doesn't work well when the camcorder has to record 25 images a second.

  4. #4

    Default

    I would recommend something which has manual options such as iris and shutter speed. This will give you more flexibility when shooting the night sky, I can't recommend anything in your price range but look out for the Sonys or Canons they have in the past being better for shooting in the dark. This may no longer be true, I'm not an expert at all. BUT even with my more expensive camera you will notice lots of noise in the shot below. I would recommend going to your local camera store and telling them what you need to do, if it's a good store they will have a better idea than most people about the current lot of cameras.


  5. #5
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    Nice moon footage!

    My experience is that stars are much, much harder to capture on video than the moon (which is actually bloody bright!) and I got the impresssion that the OP was after shooting stars and very long exposures of constellations and the night sky. I can't think of any consumer, or even prosumer, camcorder which will do this.

    A quick glance through the astronomy forums seems to confirm this, nearly everyone uses stills cameras although a few have bolted a camcorder to a telescope (but I don't think this is what the OP is after).
    Video

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gaffer View Post
    Nice moon footage!

    My experience is that stars are much, much harder to capture on video than the moon (which is actually bloody bright!) and I got the impression that the OP was after shooting stars and very long exposures of constellations and the night sky. I can't think of any consumer, or even prosumer, camcorder which will do this.

    A quick glance through the astronomy forums seems to confirm this, nearly everyone uses stills cameras although a few have bolted a camcorder to a telescope (but I don't think this is what the OP is after).
    Video
    I agree especially in the UK, I think if the OP can go out into the desert or similar non light polluted area were he lives. He will stand a better chance but like you say at the price he has quoted I don't know of anything that will be satisfactory for him.

    I posted my video to show him that even with a much more expensive camera there is still a lot of noise.
    Last edited by Midnight Blue; 11-17-2009 at 05:50 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    ...even with a much more expensive camera there is still a lot of noise.
    Even so, excellent moon pictures. Apparently some place in Scotland has the least amount of "light polution" in the UK.

    From my Gaff, any lights I see in the sky are landing at the airport or a police helicopter.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gaffer View Post
    Even so, excellent moon pictures. Apparently some place in Scotland has the least amount of "light pollution" in the UK.

    From my Gaff, any lights I see in the sky are landing at the airport or a police helicopter.
    The airport sounds like Shrimpys dream he loves planes and helicopters.

    I heard something on the news about Wales or Scotland or where ever it was being good for star gazing.

    Well, apparently there is supposed to be the best chance of seen shooting stars tonight, there is a comet flying nearby and it's a new moon.

    Oh bugger, I just realised I left my camera at work.

  9. #9

    Default Panasonic HDC-TM90

    I bought the Panasonic HDC-TM90 and i was trying to get it to be able to see the night sky also but really had no luck except for the moon and the brightest star, until one day i accidentally found a way to see the stars with it. For those of you who have this camcorder i will explain how i did it,

    *********** In Video Mode ***********
    1. Click on the menu button
    2. Click RECORD SETUP
    3. Click SCENE MODE
    4. Scroll to the bottom of the list to where you see an icon of mountains and the moon and 2 stars, Press it
    5. Next click the double arrow to the bottom left to go through the options, and choose the set of options where you can turn on the lamp or go into telemacro mode, at 5/5 you should see an icon of a half moon and a star, press it.

    You should now be able to see a lot more of the night sky with this! Hope this helped, Next time there is a clear night i will go out and take some video of the difference turning this option on makes.

  10. #10
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    Default Help with shooting stars.

    Best thing for filming night scene landscape stars is to use a DSLR and take a series of High Quality stills with low light settings and low light lens. This must be done at the precise intervals for timelapse. You then have to import these stills in to the editing suite and create your timelapse video there. The alternative would be to use a very high end video camera like the RED but not all of us have the spare change to obtain one. Hope this helps!

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