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Lenses for Astrophotography


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Posted (edited)

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Hello Leica-land, 

Been doing some lurking in the forums for some time, but can't find a definitive list of lenses suitable for astrophotography. Main things I'm looking at are fast aperture, low coma, flat field performance. Fast aperture may be not a total dealbreaker with the high iso abilities these days (using an M10-R BP, currently) especially if a tracking mount is used. 

That said, I haven't seen too many folks doing astro with Leica cameras/glass, though I know it's possible given my first Milky Way run of the season this year. See below for my shot of the Milky Way competing against the light pollution of NYC taken this weekend. 

Currently I've only tested my existing lenses (Zeiss 21 2.8 and 50 Lux 1.4. ASPH) and both seem to have horrible coma even stopped down. I mostly used the Zeiss and even at f4 I found spots of coma, though interestingly not uniform (maybe there's some field curvature going on here where one corner is better than another?)

I've read about Leica's own fast wides, but most seem out of my price range at the moment. I'm definitely getting a Zeiss 35mm 1.4 which may fit the bill for this use as it's pretty darn near optically perfect, but are there any wider lenses the community could recommend? or am I doomed to lust/save for the 21Lux or 28 Lux/cron?

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Edited by MCO_Photo
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There are many lenses that can be used with success for night sky photography.  I even used a 50mm/f1 Noctilux to photograph the Neowise Comet in 2020 over Pewetol Island in Trinidad, CA.  Some Topaz sharpening and noise reduction and I was pleased with the outcome.  Experiment with your lenses and you may surprise yourself with the images.  Be well.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, MCO_Photo said:

Hello Leica-land, 

Been doing some lurking in the forums for some time, but can't find a definitive list of lenses suitable for astrophotography. Main things I'm looking at are fast aperture, low coma, flat field performance. Fast aperture may be not a total dealbreaker with the high iso abilities these days (using an M10-R BP, currently) especially if a tracking mount is used .... 

... I've read about Leica's own fast wides, but most seem out of my price range at the moment. I'm definitely getting a Zeiss 35mm 1.4 which may fit the bill for this use as it's pretty darn near optically perfect, but are there any wider lenses the community could recommend? or am I doomed to lust/save for the 21Lux or 28 Lux/cron?

 

When it comes to coma in the corners, the 28/1.4 is terrible ; I recall the Leica 21/1.4 being worse !

Edited by FrozenInTime
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2 hours ago, FrozenInTime said:

When it comes to coma in the corners, the 28/1.4 is terrible ; I recall the Leica 21/1.4 being worse !

Good to know! 

Is this a fools errand? Anything good in the CV/Zeiss world?

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2 hours ago, rclompus said:

There are many lenses that can be used with success for night sky photography.  I even used a 50mm/f1 Noctilux to photograph the Neowise Comet in 2020 over Pewetol Island in Trinidad, CA.  Some Topaz sharpening and noise reduction and I was pleased with the outcome.  Experiment with your lenses and you may surprise yourself with the images.  Be well.

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Excellent shot! Neowise was a definitely a blast to shoot though I didn't use a Leica for it.

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The 21 Summilux suffers from coma @1.4 and is not recommended. My results with the 50 Summilux asph. wide open showed marginal coma that was acceptable.  
 

Current Leica cameras should be better suited for astro, my tests were primarily with the M240.  Canon and Nikon were better suited for this back then and my Canon 6D did a great job, especially battery life.  I’d set it up and it would shoot several hundred images before the battery died in 30 degree temps. It was less of an issue leaving it it out all night and recovered the next morning, a $1000 Canon setup vs. $10,000 for the Leica.  
 

Iirc, lenses and be easily tested for coma with an LED panel.  Take the panel to a Leica store and shoot the corners of the lens with the panel facing the camera.  
 

 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, chriscove said:

Has any tried the zeiss zm 15mm f2.8 distagon… I have been curious about this lens and see little written about it

Lloyd Chambers posted his evaluation, on his paid-subscription site. He did not report any results for night sky shooting, or mention doing so. There is a considerable amount of astigmatism. Sagittal coma flare was not addressed. There is notable complex distortion; strong barrel in the center, reversing to pincushion in the corners. Color shift exists. He got his detailed results, it seems, with an M9, though he mentioned that similar results could be expected with the M Type 240, due to ray angle issues. It is necessary to stop-down, considerably, for the corners to be sharp.

I am thinking that Lloyd Chamber borrowed or rented the Zeiss Distagon 15mm f/2.8 ZM, for a relatively short time, as he posted no images captured in wilderness areas; just urban images. 

Notably, if one wishes to subscribe, to see Lloyd Chambers reviews of Zeiss ZM lenses, one should subscribe to his Leica page, not his Zeiss page. (Of course, one can subscribe to his entire site.) Lloyd Chambers is a harsh critic, who pulls no punches.

I do plan to eventually acquire one of these interesting lenses, probably a pre-owned sample. I already obtained a well-preserved Zeiss Central Density filter, from the Used section of the B&H website. This filter counter-acts the strong vignetting, by being darker in the center, and is specifically designed for this lens. Obviously, the filter would probably not be used for night sky shooting, so, the strong vignetting would be a problem.

I have noticed the near-absence of other good reviews of this lens. I am thinking that it presented such a number of challenges, when used on M9 cameras, that few have ventured to try it on newer digital M cameras. The high cost, too, has probably deterred many from trying it.

Edited by RexGig0
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

MCO,

Thanks for starting this thread. I too like doing astrophotography, and the camera I have to work with now is the M10 R.  I have a few lenses for it--mostly Mandler era. The 35mm Summicron-M (V4) has horrible coma wide open (Holy flying seagulls, Batman!).  I need to experiment more with it and some of my other lenses.  I do wonder if this is a "fool's errand," as you say: trying to find a coma-free M-mount lens.  It seems that rangefinder lenses generally are not made with star fields in mind.  I suspect it is difficult to get rid of coma and retain the compact size.

Thanks to those who post their successes here.  I'll try to do the same as I continue to try to find something that works well.

Brent.

P.S., has anyone tried the 21mm SE-M at 3.4?

Edited by bcorton
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On 5/4/2022 at 9:23 PM, chriscove said:

Has any tried the zeiss zm 15mm f2.8 distagon… I have been curious about this lens and see little written about it

This reviewer seems to be using a decentered sample of the Zeiss 2,8/15mm Distagon ZM, and, there is no astro shooting involved, but this new you-tube video might provide some useful information. He is testing several ZM lenses, in this video, with the 25mm being the best, which is not a surprise

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Chris, 

Thanks for posting that. I’ve been interested in the WATE, and have just acquired an M10 R.  That was illustrative. I only wish the narrator had indicated at what focal length he was using the lens in the various examples. 

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I agree, the coma does not seem to be too bad. I do worry about F4 being the widest. I am trying to decide between the Zeiss 15/2.8 and the WATE. I have the 21/3.4 SEM but I am looking to go wider for night shots….

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22 hours ago, RexGig0 said:

This reviewer seems to be using a decentered sample of the Zeiss 2,8/15mm Distagon ZM, and, there is no astro shooting involved, but this new you-tube video might provide some useful information. He is testing several ZM lenses, in this video, with the 25mm being the best, which is not a surprise

I watched this but did not gain a lot of information about the 15/2.8. I think I am going to have to but one and try it…

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Thanks to everyone for the responses! I hope more can contribute to this thread. I recently acquired a tracking mount to play with and really want to try it out with a Leica. Only thing to do is wait for a good opportunity...

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On 5/16/2022 at 12:12 PM, bcorton said:

Chris, 

How does the 21/3.4 do for star photos in terms of coma and color fringing?

 

I just got my M11 … I have been using it on my M10M. Most of my night photography has been done with my Fuji GFX 100S but I am hoping to use the M11 for my color work, I’ll be doing some direct comparisons when I get some feee time and let you know. I have found the GFX 100S and the 23/4 to be very good.

https://www.covenaturephotography.com/Travel/Rochester/i-wb5wVtt

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33 minutes ago, bcorton said:

Thanks Chris, 

How have you found the SEM—M10 R combo for stars?

I have only used it on my M10M and not for stars. Just got the M11 and thinking ahead. I do want something wider maybe faster…..

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On 5/2/2022 at 9:40 PM, rclompus said:

There are many lenses that can be used with success for night sky photography.  I even used a 50mm/f1 Noctilux to photograph the Neowise Comet in 2020 over Pewetol Island in Trinidad, CA.  Some Topaz sharpening and noise reduction and I was pleased with the outcome.  Experiment with your lenses and you may surprise yourself with the images.  Be well.

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Oh gosh, what a lovely photo! Thank you for sharing, @rclompus!

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