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View Full Version : 1-4 Hour Exposures with FZ20?



freshlightphotographer
12-14-2004, 01:47 PM
I am a soon-to-be FZ20 owner and wanted to know if any current Panasonic users have tried long exposures (over 15 minutes). I am interested in taking photos of star-trails at night like I was able to on my old film SLR. However, reading the FZ20 specs I am not sure if this is possible.

Can anyone shed some light (no pun intended) on this for me please?

Thanks!
Pete

genece
12-14-2004, 02:10 PM
There is no bulb exposure so I do not think it would be possible.
8 seconds is the longest exposure.

ShoobieRat
12-14-2004, 02:45 PM
I was wondering about this, too. I have access to an observatory and take astronomy photos, and I thought it would be fun to hook up my new FZ20 to one of the telescopes to take some nice shots (haven't done it yet). The 8 second exposure time is more than enough for most heavenly things (most planets, moon, many stars and galaxies, comets, etc) but a longer exposure would be helpful. Too bad there isn't a firmware upgrade or something we could do to force the shutter to remain open while the CCD gathers.

Oh well. Still a good camera. :)

freshlightphotographer
12-14-2004, 04:01 PM
Thanks for the info. Do either of you know of any similar digicams in the $500 range that offer a B (bulb) exposure option?

arghman
12-14-2004, 04:24 PM
my guess is that you'll never see any ccd-based camera with >1minute exposure times using pure optical methods; even if the software would let you, it wouldn't work. (I am not an expert in astrophotography or CCD sensors, but do have a lot of digital signal processing experience) One of the big differences between film and CCDs (or any electronic sensor) is that film does a wonderful job of accumulating photons and nothing else. Electronic sensors have noise & drift which generally make them very poor at accumulating signals (adding them up over time) over a long timescale.

However -- the right way to do this (and my guess is that this is how real astronomers work with images from CCDs) is to use the sensor to make the best use of its dynamic range and noise characteristics, and then take lots of pictures and combine them digitally by just adding up or averaging the light levels on a pixel-by-pixel basis. (you would need software to do this, and would probably want to use a lossless format like TIFF rather than JPEG) For example if you wanted a 1-minute exposure equivalent, take 60 1-second exposures or 30 2-second exposures, with the camera in the same spot, and process them digitally. If you take exposures that are too short, the signals are too small for the camera to convert the CCD's analog levels to digital. If you take exposures that are too long, you run into the noise/drift issue.

I tried searching on google for "ccd long exposure minute OR minutes" and found lots of sites, one that looks informative is http://www.starizona.com/ccd/index.htm. "Regular" consumer cameras aren't really great, an acquaintance of mine is big into astrophotography and he has a special chilled CCD (cold generally lowers electronic noise) with an adapter for his telescope.

good luck...

John_Reed
12-14-2004, 04:27 PM
Thanks for the info. Do either of you know of any similar digicams in the $500 range that offer a B (bulb) exposure option?Those little potential wells that hold the electronic charge corresponding to the light collected at each photo site on the CCD imager, can only hold their charge for so long without losing it to natural leakage that happens in any semiconductor chip. I'm afraid it would take some other technology to allow for extremely long exposure times. Your best bet would be to use an "intervalometer" technique with cameras that are compatible (the FZ20's remote input may make this possible) to periodically sample the image, i.e., take multiple shots of the sky or whatever you're shooting.

genece
12-14-2004, 04:32 PM
Those little potential wells that hold the electronic charge corresponding to the light collected at each photo site on the CCD imager, can only hold their charge for so long without losing it to natural leakage that happens in any semiconductor chip. I'm afraid it would take some other technology to allow for extremely long exposure times. Your best bet would be to use an "intervalometer" technique with cameras that are compatible (the FZ20's remote input may make this possible) to periodically sample the image, i.e., take multiple shots of the sky or whatever you're shooting.
I have no knowledge about that but it seeems correct as Fuji and Minolta cameras( may be others) seem to have a bulb setting but it seems to be limited to 30 seconds.

freshlightphotographer
12-14-2004, 04:54 PM
Jason, John (and Gene),

Thanks for the extremely well-researched input. I guess I can't have any more reservations about the FZ20 then, might as well dive in since I won't be able to get exactly what I want from a digicam anyway.

Regarding the image processing software, I think that is a fantastic workaround and I'll research it further.

Incidentally, do you know if it is possible to control the camera through a computer software interface? If so, I would be able to take my laptop out into the field and have it tell the camera to take a precisely timed series of 240 shots at 30 second intervals to simulate a 2 hour exposure. This, if it is possible, would be very cool.

Pete

John_Reed
12-14-2004, 05:07 PM
Incidentally, do you know if it is possible to control the camera through a computer software interface? If so, I would be able to take my laptop out into the field and have it tell the camera to take a precisely timed series of 240 shots at 30 second intervals to simulate a 2 hour exposure. This, if it is possible, would be very cool.

PeteWell, for the FZ20, you'll never get a 30 second shutter open time, only 8 seconds max, but you should be able to get a 30 second interval, i.e., firing the shutter for 8 seconds every 30 seconds. It has a remote control input, which seems to be just a pair of terminals that get externally switched. If that is so, said "external switch" function could conceivably be controlled by your laptop to create an intervalometer. I don't know enough about the details of the FZ20's remote interface to say this for a fact, but it's likely that it's possible. Some assembly required! :o

LarryB
12-14-2004, 05:27 PM
I am a soon-to-be FZ20 owner and wanted to know if any current Panasonic users have tried long exposures (over 15 minutes). I am interested in taking photos of star-trails at night like I was able to on my old film SLR. However, reading the FZ20 specs I am not sure if this is possible.

Can anyone shed some light (no pun intended) on this for me please?

Thanks!
Pete

Pete, Check this site out. I believe this is what you are after. A form of time lapse for digital photography. John Reed was on the right track with this.

http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm

Hope this helps.
Larry

freshlightphotographer
12-14-2004, 06:36 PM
Larry, that is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!!

vasanthd
12-14-2004, 08:26 PM
yaaaaaay! I can now take star trails...yaaaaaaaay!
OMG ... but for a minimum 40 min exp, i.e. 2400 Sec, I would need to take 300 series of snaps continously. thats tough.

Also I figured one thing....these astro snaps, I believe they use an even smaller aperture...so stacking 300 f/8 images is definatly going to over expose the final image....

Am I right?

But thats a good software...definatly worth the experitment...! :D


Regards,
Vasanth

xpix
12-15-2004, 12:27 AM
Hi,
To take long exposures with FZ-20 should be nice to have the remote shutter, set the exposure to 8 and take as much pictures as you want and then combine them.

but...

I recommend having as back up for FZ20 an old film camera with a good lens( a 200 lens should do fine). They are very cheap in this moment and they do their job very well.

Off course, you will not have the zoom power of the FZ20 but the resolution of a film is far greater that the FZ20's resolution, so you can easily magnified the area you want directly from the film.

mvettore
12-15-2004, 10:11 AM
Take a look at:
http://web.canon.jp/Imaging/astro/index-e.html

Max

Dave Dilks
12-15-2004, 10:41 AM
I have no knowledge about that but it seeems correct as Fuji and Minolta cameras( may be others) seem to have a bulb setting but it seems to be limited to 30 seconds.

Not that I've used the feature, but my Coolpix 4500 claims to allow exposures up to 5 minutes in bulb setting.

NewsyBC
12-15-2004, 05:21 PM
The new Nikon Coolpix 8800 has a 10 minute bulb mode.

John_Reed
12-15-2004, 06:07 PM
Not that I've used the feature, but my Coolpix 4500 claims to allow exposures up to 5 minutes in bulb setting.I'll have to fire up my 4500 and try that 5 minute bulb mode. Never even knew it HAD a bulb mode. One thing the 4500 has available, if you buy it, is the MC-EU1 remote cord, which has an intervalometer built-in, so you can set the camera to shoot successive shots at a chosen interval up to a time determined by a second preset interval. Just don't try to use it with 256MB CF cards, I can pre-warn you! :o

freshlightphotographer
12-15-2004, 06:32 PM
Very interesting discussion so far. I browsed some of Jeff Keller's reviews on this site, and look what I stumbled upon in his review (http://snipurl.com/2l8p) of the Canon EOS Digital Rebel:

"a bulb mode is also available, allows exposures as long as 2.5 hours (!)"

WOW.

HincklNutt
12-15-2004, 11:39 PM
Pete, Check this site out. I believe this is what you are after. A form of time lapse for digital photography. John Reed was on the right track with this.

http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm

Hope this helps.
Larry
awesome site, thanks for the link.

StanStan
01-28-2005, 06:54 AM
I am very interested in getting hold of an interface and remote wiring diagram for the FZ20 as I would like to fire the camera from a motion detector for wildlife pictures.

Need Help.

Thanks

StanStan

genece
01-28-2005, 07:21 AM
Follow this thread
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1033&message=10684677