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DSLR Astrophotography: What settings to use for each type of target?

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

A DSLR camera is the easiest way to get into Astrophotography. We started out with a very cheap Canon t3i from Ebay, and upgraded to a Canon 7D Mark II about a year and a half later. We have gotten great images with these, but we also had to trash lots of files over time because the settings we used weren't great for the type of target.

We often get questions on how we choose our DSLR camera settings depending on what we image, and decided to make a tutorial explaining our reasoning.


You can view all the settings we use for each target in our online gallery if you'd like to know what we used for a very specific object.

In this tutorial, we will be talking about the Moon, the Milky Way, Star Clusters, Nebulae, and Galaxies. Woo!


Tutorial on how to focus a telescope and a DSLR camera in just a few seconds using a cheap Bahtinov mask


I - The Moon


Aperture:

11-16

Shutter speed:

1/125 - 1/250

ISO:

100-200

Other:

Crispness level to the Max

Spot Metering



For this target, we need to tighten our aperture so that our big, bright satellite doesn't look all white and washed out in the photo. An F-number between 11 and 16 usually works pretty well. The shutter speed needs to be fast, because you are, in general, just using a tripod and not tracking the Moon on a motorized mount. We like to do either 1/125 or 1/250 depending on the phase of the moon during the night. Both usually work great.


As for the ISO, the lower it is, the less noise you'll have so 100 is the best you can choose, although there is almost no noticeable difference between 100 and 200.