Photo of the Day: Moonshot

The moon, full-frame image shot with an effective focal length of 2268mm (click to enlarge). This was the sharpest shot I got, although I would have preferred better framing. I chose to present this image uncropped so you can see just how much of the frame the moon fills at this focal length!

Last night, as I noticed the full moon rising over my backyard, I figured I’d go ahead and try something fun. Fun as in crazy focal lengths. I’ve shot the moon before, so it’s not like I needed more photos of it. But I’d never shot it with the equivalent of a 2,268mm lens before…How did I get that much focal length? I have a Nikkor 600mm f/4 AFS G VRII lens. I also have a Nikon TC-14E teleconverter (1.4x). That’s 840mm of actual focal length, and it’s a combination that has served me well in the past. Next, I chose the Nikon 1 V1 camera, which has a 2.7x crop-factor (Nikon CX format) sensor. I was able to mount the lens to this camera with Nikon’s FT1 adapter. Multiplying everything together gives you the final value of 2,268mm (effective). Note that the focal length isn’t really that long, but the angle of view is the same as if I had an optical monstrosity on my 35mm (FX) format Nikon D3s.

Setup

With this much magnification, even tiny vibrations will degrade image quality. I mounted the whole thing on my Gitzo 5-series carbon tripod and Wimberley head. Because the moon is so bright, I set the V1 to aperture-priority exposure mode with spot metering. I metered the moon and used +2/3 EV compensation to properly expose it (remember that the meter renders objects neutral gray, and the moon is brighter than that). I selected the electronic shutter in the V1 to eliminate any camera shake from the shutter movement, locked the whole thing down and triggered the camera with the Nikon ML-L3 infrared remote. I manually pre-focused the camera and set the aperture at f/8 for maximum sharpness.

The only trouble I had with this shot is that the moon darn near fills the entire frame! At this magnification, the apparent movement of the moon was so fast that every ten seconds or so I had to reposition the camera to get proper framing. Nevertheless, the results were great and it was a fun experiment.

Just for fun, here’s a 100% crop of the craters at the 9 o’clock position from the original image:

100% crop view showing crater detail (click to see full-size)

5 thoughts on “Photo of the Day: Moonshot”

  1. This is an amazing photo. Very difficult to get this w/o it being blurry or out of focus.. as you said, the moon moves very fast that close up! :)

    I was looking at it through my Celestron NexStar SE6 last night using a moon filter. There’s no contrast during a full moon, so it’s hard to see craters unless you look at the edges. I look at it last week and it was definitely cooler looking.

    Jupiter was up last night… were you able to see very well with your setup? Just guessing, but you should have been able to see it’s moons and some of the clouds judging by your full moon shot magnification.

  2. Did a little USM + High Pass sharpening in CNX 2.3, just to add some definition. The full moon is fairly low-contrast, so high-pass sharpening helped.

  3. Coincidentally, I did the same thing last night. I used a similar set-up but with a 300mm f/2.8 VRII, a 2X teleconverter and the V1. I used f/10 and noticed a couple of issues:
    1. I got quite a bit of CA to the top right and bottom left of the moon which was only partially corrected in in NX2.
    2. I used the LCD, magnified, for manual focussing. The moon showed up completely blown out and I needed to dial in negative exposure to get the thing focussed. I then changed the exposure to +2/3 for the actual photo.

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