Star photography with Zeiss 16-35 f4?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by NightBird, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. NightBird

    NightBird TalkEmount Regular

    Jun 13, 2014
    I'm hoping for the opportunity to try some star photography (Not star trails) with my A7r over the next week weather permitting, and was wondering if anyone has had experience trying this with the Zeiss 16-35 f4? I understand that f4 may not be so great for this. Any tips on where to limit my ISO or shutter speed for focal lengths between 16 - 24mm would be appreciated.

    I do also have a Canon FD 20mm f2.8 & 24mm f2.8 which may not be as sharp as the Zeiss, though happy to try whatever lenses I have at hand.

  2. mattia

    mattia TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Works great. Would I have liked even wider and faster (say a rokinon 14/2.8)? Sure. But it served me very well in Australia and New Zealand at all times of day.

    Most shots were at ISO's between 1600, 2000 or 3200, some needing a bit more push in post, wide open, at 16mm, 20 to 30 sec exposures. Still processing the full sized RAW files but below are a couple of examples (quick n dirty snapseed edits in an iPhone while on the road). Most was shot in The Kimberley in Australia, so zero light pollution, on moonless nights or before moonrise.


    With a bit of light painting (on the tree).

    Quick pano, the reddish glow is from a campfire. Should have exposed a little longer here I think.

    I'll get around to processing the full RAW files in the next few weeks, hopefully.
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  3. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Real Name:
    Beautiful shots, mattia!

    NightBird: I have yet to attempt any night photography with the 16-35, but I did give it a try with my (now sold) Canon FD 20 & 24 lenses. Both were just way too soft wide open to produce any decent results, with stars, especially near the edges of the frame, dissolving into fuzzy mush. I eventually just gave up trying to get anything useful out of them.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. mattia

    mattia TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Thanks! One thing that worked well for me, rather than trying to futz around with manual focus in the dark, was to focus on something at or slightly past the hyperfocal distance (a tree a few dozen meters/yards away at least, since DoF is pretty massive at 16mm, even on FF, with subject distance that far away), using a flashlight to create contrast if possible, then switching to manual focus and not touching the focus ring any more.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. pbizarro

    pbizarro TalkEmount Veteran

    Nov 24, 2014
    F4 is arguably not ideal, but it will do. The issue is that you will be able to get the brighter stars, but not the dimmer ones, in a 20 to 30 sec exposure. One thing you can try to overcome this is to shoot several exposures and stack them later, with proper alignment (if you do not want trails). Several softwares can do this easily. Also shoot some dark frames to subtract noise later in post. The idea of multiple exposures is to get a cumulative exposure time that will get the dimmer stars, thus enriching your photo.

    Another issue is coma in the corners when lenses are wide open; points of light will look like UFO saucers... I don't know how the 16-35 lens behaves in this regard, but I expect poorly, since it is a zoom. Coma is no issue when shooting for startrails, but for single images it can be a problem, especially for larger display sizes.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. NightBird

    NightBird TalkEmount Regular

    Jun 13, 2014
    Thanks everyone. I just returned from my trip and unfortunately the weather wasn't obliging enough to attempt star shots. I'm happy to see it's possible, if not ideal as I suspected. Best I forget about the FD 20mm perhaps due to softness.