M8 - THE LAGOON NEBULA - DSLR vs CMOS Astrophotography

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Scroll to the bottom for more DSLR vs Astrophotography camera comparisons!

The Lagoon Nebula is the 8th deep sky object in the Messier Catalog, and is a great target because of its size, magnitude, and color.

If imaging from a dark location, you will not have to spend much time on this target. We have imaged Messier 8 with both our old Canon t3i DSLR camera and, more recently, our ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro CMOS camera. We will show you the comparison between both in this post!

We also have a full episode about M8 (and M20) on our YouTube Channel.

The photo below is the one we took more recently, with our CMOS camera, for a total of 3 hours. Scroll down to see what we got a few years before with our unmodified DSLR camera.


Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono

Telescope: Meade 70mm APO Astrograph

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 3 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: Ha (1 hour) / SII (1 hour) / OIII (1 hour)

Gain: 139

To compare, here is our image of M8 taken with our unmodified Canon t3i, about 3 years before revisiting it with our CMOS camera.

A modded DSLR camera may show more gas but might make the entire target red. Without filters or modification, you can differentiate the blues from the reds, but will capture less outer gases. The choice is yours!

Can you spot the open cluster NGC 6530? More info below.


Camera: Canon t3i

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 2 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

40 lights - 21 Darks - 20 Bias

ISO: 400


The Lagoon nebula is located in the Sagittarius constellation. You can find it in the busy Milky Way band, above the top right of Sagittarius’ teapot asterism.

Make sure to plan ahead before going out for imaging this target, as the nebula does not rise very high in the sky in the Northern hemisphere.

You can easily see both the Lagoon nebula and its star cluster with binoculars from a dark zone. It is also visible to the naked eye as a gray patch, but a little hard to distinguish since it is inside the Milky Way band. A telescope will reveal visible details like darker shades of gray within the gases.

  • Open Star Cluster NGC 6530 in front of the nebula

  • Discovered before 1654

  • Bright center contains the Hourglass nebula


Determined to image M8 and M20 in narrowband and Hubble palette, we used our Ha, SII and OIII filters to capture this beautiful and bright nebula. We spent exactly one hour on each filter, doing three minute exposures for each. Below you can see the stacked frames for each filter, with, of course, the Hydrogen Alpha data being the most impressive.

The Lagoon Nebula, stacked frames for Ha/SII/OIII

The processing was fairly easy, especially if using a DSLR camera. For our revisit, it was a bit tricky in this particular case since we have some nebulosity cut off on the top left in our CMOS version, and we are still learning how to process narrowband images.

Here is the first result we got after processing our data on PixInsight. As you can see, it is very detailed but also very green, a bit too green for our taste. This is because we did not play with the Hue Curves before applying the SCNR process.

We decided to process our data again a couple of days later and were able to get an overall color we liked (shown on top of this post).

Below you can see our single shot of 3 minutes at ISO 400 on Messier 8, this time with our Canon t3i DSLR camera.

Notice how there is much more blue in the final image than in that single shot!

Just like M20, M8 doesn’t get very high from the horizon. This can be challenging when photographing it because you want to make sure that there are no big cities in the direction of the nebula, or it will create a light pollution dome that you will have to shoot through.

The open cluster NGC 6530, located just in front of the Lagoon Nebula, to the left side.

The cluster was formed from the gases of M8, and makes a really great addition to the overall image!


In Episode 13, we try out a wide telescope, the Meade 70mm APO Astrograph, and photograph both Messier 8 and Messier 20 in the same frame! Watch it below to see how we ended up with our final image.


The Lagoon Nebula is a great target for beginner astrophotographers using a cheap DSLR camera. As you can see in our photograph, just 2 hours of total exposure is enough to make a beautiful image, and the processing is easy as well!

It is also a fantastic object to revisit when you have better equipment and more training in the hobby. We spent 3 hours on this nebula with a much better camera, 3 years after our first attempt, and we had a blast imaging and processing this target!

Let us know in the comments what you think about the DSLR/CMOS comparison, and don't hesitate to attach your own version of the Lagoon Nebula so we can all see your work!

Click on an image below if you'd like to see more comparisons between our Canon DSLR camera and our ZWO ASI 1600MM cooled monochrome camera.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter

Part of: The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!

#astronomy #astrophotography #messiercatalog #messier #galaxy #nebula #cluster #stars #space #galactichunter #nevada #lasvegas #canon #orion #telescope #m8 #lagoon #lagoonnebula

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