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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Looking at the camera mount from another angle, 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
This 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
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
At left 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
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.
Here's Another Digital Camera Moon Shot
At left 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.
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