Tumbleweed Observatory's

Astronomy Hints



How to Build a Simple Digital Camera-Telescope Mount

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How To Mount A Digital Camera To Your Telescope

One easy way to get into astrophotography is to begin with the moon. It's big and bright, and a wonderful subject for photographs. You might think that once you've photographed the moon, you're done. But each lunar cycle, the sun strikes the moon a bit different, and the moon wobbles a bit as its slightly elliptical orbit moves in closer and further away. This makes craters look different because of the different illumination angles.

What you'll need is a telescope. A clock driven one is best, but for the moon, not necessarily critical. The telescope needn't be all that large, and fine moon images can be taken without a clock drive. Check out these 60mm Astrophotos for example. These moon and planet images were obtained with a 60mm telescope on a non-driven pipe-fitting mount, using a Celestron NexImage astrocamera.

For a minimal setup, you can use a digital camera, but it doesn't have to be a particularly expensive one. For the moon photo examples on this page, I used my Fuji Finepics A303.

For even more dramatic proof that you don't need a giant telescope to have fun with astrophotography, check out my 2 Inch Telescope Astrophotos page. The images there were obtained with a 2 inch refractor and a 35mm camera.

To get the best results, you need a way to fasten your digital camera to your telescope. This page shows how to make a simple and inexpensive mount for that purpose. If you want to skip the hassle of making a camera/telescope adapter, you can just purchase a handy and adjustable digital camera mount like the Celestron 93626 Universal Digital Camera Adapter.

Note that the camera shown in the following illustrations isn't my digital, I needed it to take the pictures. The stand-in is my mini-35 Olympus, which is similar in size to my digital.

Basic Digital Camera to Telescope Mount

The Basic Digital Camera to Telescope Mount

At left you see my simple digital camera to telescope mount. It is basically a clamp made of 3/4 inch plywood and an old flash attachment holder from my 35mm camera collection.

If you don't have such a flash attachment, you can make such a piece out of 1/4 inch thick tempered hardboard. It's just a piece about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long, with a slot cut in for the camera mounting screw to slide in.

A 3 inch square was cut from a piece of 3/4 inch thick plywood. That square was cut into two pieces, and a V section cut from each piece. I'll get to how to measure out the cuts in a bit.

Two long screws, which turn freely in the first piece they enter, allow me to clamp the mount around my telescope focuser tube.

The slide slot lets me attach the camera, and then slide it into position just over the eyepiece.

Digital Camera Mount Side View

Don't Cut Till You Measure

What you desire is for the clamped focuser to sit centered under the camera lens as illustrated by the red line.

The distance from the camera bottom to the center of the camera lens must be the same as from the mounting edge of the wood clamp to the center of the focuser when clamped.

I traced around my telescope focuser on the wood square to see where it would be when clamped, then drew the V lines so they'd just touch the focuser circle.

From there I could measure where to cut one edge of the plywood so my mounted camera lens would be centered over the focuser circle.

Then I cut the square in two and cut out the V pieces and drilled the screw holes for the clamp.

Another View of the Digital Camera Mount

Digital Camera Mount from Another Angle

Looking at the camera mount from another angle (above illustration), you can see that the holding bracket must be mounted onto the wood clamp so that the camera lens is centered over the clamp hole.

The Digital Camera Mount Fastened to Telescope

Digital Camera Mount on Telescope

The above image shows the digital camera mount fastened to my Newtonian telescope, ready to take lunar or planetary photos. Note that the wood clamp is simply tightened around the focuser.

Be Careful if you try viewing through the telescope with the bracket attached. Don't bump your eye on the camera slide!!!

I first focus the telescope for my relaxed eye, then mount the camera to the slide, and watch the camera LCD as I slide the camera toward the eyepiece.

For low power eyepieces, you'll likely find that the camera field of view is most filled when the camera lens is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the eyepiece.

For short focal length eyepieces, the camera lens will need to nearly touch the eyepiece.

When the camera position on the slide is correct, I take a look at the eyepiece and camera lens to be sure the camera is square to the eyepiece.

Can It Really Work? You Bet

Digital Camera Picture of the Lunar Appenines

Above you see a picture of the lunar Appenines taken on November 17, 2007. I was using the afocal technique, simply mounting the camera over the focused eyepiece. In this case, I was using a 9mm eyepiece on my 6 inch f/5 Newtonian.

The actual image included more of the moon, but I clipped this section out as the most interesting.

Compare this to the image of the same lunar region on the ETX photo page.

I found that the best technique with this particular camera, which isn't designed to use a cable release, is to set the camera on highest resolution and use the timer for the photograph.

In this way, the picture isn't taken when I push the shutter, which is good because pushing the shutter causes a bit of vibration. The picture is taken 10 seconds later when the vibrations have stopped.

I think the picture came out well for a first try.

Digital Camera Picture of the Southern Lunar Region

Here's Another Digital Camera Moon Shot

Above you see another moon image taken with the digital camera mounted on my 6 inch f/5 telescope. It's the rough southern region of the moon. You can see a pretty good image of the Straight Wall in the picture.

If I can do it, you can too. Get out there and start taking pictures. Just always be aware if you have the camera mount attached before you view so you don't bump into it.