Customer Reviews: Digital Astrophotography: A Guide to Capturing the Cosmos
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on July 19, 2009
I've been reading up on astrophotography but I'm still a rank beginner, so I'm shocked to meet a book that seems too shallow even for me. Here's how the book's contents break down:

13 pages - Introduction
22 pages - Compact Digital Camera
26 pages - Webcam
32 pages - DSLR
42 pages - CCD (SBIG, Starlight Xpress)

Choice of a telescope is limited to a half page discussion in the introduction. There a picture of an equatorial mounting, nothing more. The Meade LPI is given two sentences. For CCD cameras, only the SBIG and Starlight Xpress get a mention. There is no index.

One interesting aspect of the book is the large number of formulas for helping you estimate optimum magnification, angle of view, etc. But overall, this book is trying to cover too much material to do any of it well.
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on January 17, 2008
Astrophotography is an area in the hobby where most beginners feel a measure of intimidation- from the high cost of equipment, the myriad jargon tossed around in amateur astronomy forums on the web, and a seemingly confusing and endless selection of knobs, plates, adapters, scopes, mounts, tripods, cameras, etc. available in the market place. But most folks are hooked the moment they take a photo of the moon or a planet through a small digital camera or even a cell phone cam.

Seip's book is concise, highly readable and an up-to-date book on amateur astrophotography. It is clear and well written and perhaps the best primer to read when one is contemplating delving into this area of the hobby.

I would have liked to see a little more elaboration on guiding (manual and auto), on focusing a DSLR (that's what most people start dabbling in), and on the importance of a good mount-perhaps an appendix guide on mount recommendations, stability considerations, the concept of PEC and maybe on drift alignment (a proper mount is the biggest success factor in astrophotography), but this information can be easily found elsewhere on the web and in books (Ron Wodaski has an excellent section on telescope and mount selection and considerations in his book that bears reading). All in all, an excellent book. I enjoyed reading it very much.

Lastly, if you see Seip's astrophotography photos on the web, you will realize how spectacular his photos (and skills) are. Perhaps it is a reflection of his humility that he avoids showcasing his jaw-dropping photos in his own book!
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on March 1, 2008
Many of us have been impressed by the images made by Stefan Seip, an astro-photographer based in Stuttgart Germany. His shots of Comet Machholz against the Pleiades and Venus at inferior conjunction framed by wispy clouds are stunning examples of what digital imaging technology can produce when directed by a discerning eye.

So, even though I'm a committed visual observer, when Seip's "Digital Astrophotography: A Guide to Capturing the Universe" became available (It was first published in German under the title "Astrofotografie digital") I thought what better photographer to acquaint me with what's become such a huge part of the astronomy hobby. And I was right. As an intro, it's superb.

His book is an attractive soft cover volume, profusely illustrated in color and printed on a heavy weight glossy paper with lots of open margins for notes. It enjoys two clear advantages over some other digital astrophotography texts. First, it does not limit itself to one particular type of digital tool/photography and two, being published this year, its camera and software references should be up to date.

A short introductory chapter, "Before You Start" addresses some basics and presents some terms and concepts which will figure in later discussions.

Then comes the heart of the book: four chapters, each treating a type of camera available to today's digital astro-imager:

- Compact Digital Cameras
- Webcams
- Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLR)
- Charged Coupled Device Cameras (CCD)

Within each chapter, Seip

- explains the characteristics of the specific camera type and
mentions its advantages and disadvantages

- mentions the types of photographs suited to it, e.g., only
webcams are recommended for planetary imaging while CCD cameras
are unsurpassed for deep sky objects.

- gives tips on purchasing, e.g., webcams with a CCD sensor are
better than those with a CMOS sensor for astrophotography

- recommends accessories, e.g., his chapter on CCD cameras
mentions software, autoguider connections, filter wheels, focal
reducers, portable power supplies, etc.

- takes the reader, step by step, through the process of capturing
an image and processing it. Understandably, to do this, Seip
necessarily uses specific equipment and software in his
explanations, e.g., his webcam chapter is geared to the Celestron
NexImage camera and Registax software. The CCD chapter utilizes
MSB's Astroart software. Adobe Photoshop is used throughout the book.

As Seip progresses from simpler to more complex cameras, the discussion of digital imaging itself becomes more sophisticated and the reader's grasp of the whole topic becomes deeper. Later chapters discuss topics that definitely would be of concern to intermediate level imagers, e.g., thermal noise, spectral sensitivity, format conversion, field flatteners, coma correctors, etc.

I was impressed that the book was able to educate me about a seemingly complicated subject in a painless way. Plus, I kept thinking should I ever decide to take the plunge into digital imaging, I'll have what amounts to a "cookbook" reference.

The book has an internet tie-in to Stefan Seip's web site. The actual images used to illustrate software photo processing techniques can be downloaded, so the reader can duplicate the steps shown in the book. Also three documents, one on how to treat dust and pixel defects, another telling how to remove a satellite trail from an image and the last listing selection criteria for a CCD camera are available as PDF's.

There is an appendix containing some useful information, a glossary (which comes in handy for a visual observer when a term such as "resolution", for example, takes on a definition which differs from the one that applies to telescope optics alone), a list of resources and reading suggestions and last, but not least, entries giving the exposure info and equipment used for each of the images used to illustrate the book.
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on May 9, 2008
I am relatively new to the hobby of astrophotography, however, I've done a lot of research online through astrophoto websites and by joining forums dedicated to the subject. Wanting to increase my knowledge, I bought this book for two reasons: First of all it's a newly published book, so I figured it would have information pertaining to the latest cameras, devices, and software available. Secondly, I read all the 5 star reviews here on Amazon which sealed the deal for me.

I'm sorry I ever bought it. The book felt very disjointed. It felt like every paragraph introduced you to a new topic, but never really explained anything. By the end of the paragraph you would be wanting more, only for the book to go on about something new.

To make things worse, the book is filled with sentences that will leave you scratching your head. Here's a perfect example from page 27. And I quote:

"If your camera does not allow the complete manual setting of the exposure, you may be able to use the camera's exposure compensation. For example, if the automatic mode produces over exposures, you can try a manual correction selecting shorter exposures."

What was that he said?? Ok, maybe he'll explain it clearer in the next paragraph... Not.

On the subject of processing your photos, telling me to open Photoshop and click and drag on the curve to adjust the colors doesn't quite cut it. Can we be a little more specific?? Here's the quote:

"In order to create an impressive nighttime image, the following menu item is more helpful: Image->Adjustments->Curves...
As shown in the curves dialog box, you can click and drag on the straight line with the mouse to change the shape of the curve. The result (image 3) more closely resembles a nightime shot"

I need a little more why's and how's than this book offers. The majority of the book is pictures, and even the pictures lack the information normally found in photography books. I'm used to seeing photos where the photographer explains the equipment and settings - you won't find any of that here.

If you already have a general knowledge of astrophotography, I would suggest that you pass on this book.
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on February 17, 2008
I've quite a few books on astrophotography in my astronomy library and they've all followed the same course: They start with extreme basics and then jump into using a $[...] camera to gather 800 6 hour exposures and how to stack and process the singles into an image better than the Hubble could capture. You'll need a $[...] mount.

Since I am an observer, my interest in astrophotograhy is not deep enough to entice me into spending the time to do all the work that most books teach. This book covers the middle ground nicely. If you want to go beyond holding a camera to the eyepiece but don't care to build an observatory dedicated to electronics, this guide book will have you producing beautiful images---on any budget. And if you want to go "all the way" there is plenty of material for that too.

I was very pleased when I got the book and am more pleased every time I open it.

Chris Reich,
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on January 15, 2008
Have you admired the Hubble images of deep space objects, of the planets? Did you ever think you could create images that would rival the Hubble images? Well, you can't. But you can certainly create images that will amaze your friends and family. You may even create images that can be published in an astronomy magazine. This book is a concise introduction to astrophotography.

Many books on astrophotography are large, ponderous tomes that contain so much information that they overwhelm the casual reader. This book sticks to the basics, but has an amazing amount of information for such a small book. If you have the slightest interest in the equipment and techniques that produce the stunning images in Astronomy or Sky & Telescope, this book is an excellent place to start.

The author points out that astrophotography can be pursued on a very limited budget, often with surprising results. He lists cameras and webcams that work for planetary and deep sky imaging, and proceeds to discuss more complicated (read expensive) equipment that can image nebula and distant galaxies. He also introduces post-processing where with the use of programs such as Adobe Elements or Photoshop, you can enhance contrast and bring out details in digital images that were not apparent in the original image.

So if you have any interest in the hobby of astrophotography, or if you know someone who is thinking of getting into the hobby, this book is a good place to start. Clear skies.
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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2013
First of all, I don't know anything about astronomy and astrophotography. However, I do know quite a bit about photography, but because of the first comment, I don't know anything about astrophotography. As such, I was very astonished with the relative lack of books out there in regards to this topic. However, perhaps because there is such slim pickings that people are giving this book such high marks. I'm actually surprised and disappointed that such a publisher like Rocky Nook would put out such a... lame book. Initially it appears to be a comprehensive book, in which a novice like myself would get a good overview along with specific information on how to capture astrophotography related images... but unfortunately no. For example, the most accessible / easy shot for the novice to get would be that related to milky way shots or star trails; ie using a regular SLR, tripod, wide angle lens... that's about it, no fancy telescopes, no rotating heads etc... There are literally around 2, perhaps 3 very dull and basic information related to this seemingly important subject. Like I said, this is such a dud of a book, that I'm not going to even waste the time trying to resell it; that would be a disservice to the public. One would be better served, doing some internet searching for some tutorials or e-books on the subject.
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on March 20, 2011
I found the book lacking in any real examples of night sky photographic technique. Book is divided into sections which detail the types of cameras one can use with some starting suggestions of what to shoot e.g., use your point and shoot to photograph the moon. Too many words are dedicated to very basic descriptions of the different cameras and not enough to technique and examples. A synopsis of technique or specific examples of shots is (here I'm paraphrasing): " look at your camera's monitor display to check for exposure and focus"

So that's a summary of how to manipulate your camera for astral-photography : check your display monitor.

The Photoshop sections may be the most useful info contained in the book, but I haven't used the suggestions yet so will refrain from rating these.
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on June 11, 2015
Great book. Best I have found for starting into AP (Astro Photography). The information you NEED all in one book. Teaches you how to get good results right from the beginning. This is the best AP book out there to start with, or add to your collection of other AP books. I sure wish I had bought this AP book first.
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on March 22, 2008
What astronomer hasn't wished to record the splendor of the night sky to review later? It is natural to want to be able to recall those glorious evenings that are so few and far between, like looking at a family album. Astrophotography is a way to do that but as anyone who has tried it can tell you, that can be daunting.

In Digital Astrophotography: A Guide to Capturing the Cosmos, Stefan Seip provides a solid introduction to several digital techniques for recording the visible universe. After a first "Before You Start" chapter describing the basics of resolution, focal length and ratio, Seip breaks the remainder of the book into four main categories of digital astrophotography: the Digital Compact Camera (DCC), the Webcam (WC), the Digital SLR (DLSR), and the dedicated Astronomical Camera (AC).

The ubiquitous Digital Compact Camera is inexpensive and most everyone already has one so getting started takes little or no money. They are self contained so no computer is required to acquire the images. On the downside, they are often not very flexible in use, mounting to a telescope may be difficult, and some simply don't have the needed features such as long exposure. The book provides tips for connecting the camera to the telescope for either through the optical tube assembly for high power imaging or piggy back for low power. The author then covers after the fact image processing with popular software.

The Webcam, introduced first for live images over the Internet, has had an enormous impact on planetary imaging in the last decade. Like the DCC, many people already have one and they are inexpensive if not. Also like the DCC, some webcams are better suited to astrophotography than others. Unlike the DCC, they do require an attached computer and typically they are used for through the telescope imaging only. Seip provides tips for purchasing the webcam and accessories for attaching it to the telescope. He goes into detail on setting up the software, the critical focusing, tips for acquiring the images, and processing with the popular (and free) Registax application.

Next, Seip covers the Digital SLR which has the advantages of the DCC but far fewer of the disadvantages so as a fixed lens and limited functionality. Of course, DSLRs are a big step up price wise from the previous two camera types but that price is coming down. Since DSLRs have removable lens, you can switch focal length very easily and also shoot through the telescope much more easily. They also usually have much larger chips making for larger fields of view and more sophisticated software than their DCC cousins. They do tend to be prone to electronic noise and tend to run through batteries so you need to take measures to overcome both issues.

Finally, Seip discusses dedicated Astronomical Cameras which tend to be more sensitive, cooled to reduce electronic noise, and more dynamic range than any of the previous camera types discussed. Of course, they cannot be used for normal photography and must be controlled by a computer. The author covers the details of these cameras, what accessories you might want, as well as the software you might use to acquire and process your images.

Digital Astrophotography: A Guide to Capturing the Cosmos provides a solid introduction to the art for the beginning astrophotographer. If you follow his tips and techniques you should be soon producing good images of night sky objects. However, if you are not new to the subject you may find the book of limited value.
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