Photography News issue 25

55 Accessories test

Photography News Issue 25


TAMRON SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD £800

SKYWATCHER T-Mount adapter £10 and Variable Tele Extender £40



CELESTRON NexStar 130SLT Computerised Reflector Telescope £350

VANGUARD Alta Pro 263AT £129.99 and BBH-200 ball head £149.99


Vixen Polarie Star Tracker £299

5 Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT £129.99 and BBH-200 ball head £149.99 With night sky shooting, your exposures could extend into minutes, so you need to make sure your equipment is kept stable. Vanguard’s Alta Pro 263AT tripod and BBH-200 head will take care of that, supporting loads of up to 7kg without breaking a sweat (the ball head is rated up to 20kg on its own). Combining this stable platform with highly adaptable handling, the tripod features a Multi- Angle Central Column (MACC), letting you swing the central column through angles from 0-180°. Setting up is fast with the Quick-flip leg locks, and it extends to a maximum height of 173cm. Withitsmagnesium-alloyconstruction and Arca compatible quick-release plate, the BBH-200 ball head combines great accuracy with freedom of movement allowing you to compose with ease. Getting the head perfectly positioned is simple via its twin bubble levels, while the separate 360°-panning control and oxidized surface of the ball allow smooth, versatile movement. The Rapid Level System automatically locks the ball into place once it’s level. The legs and head weigh 2.44kg and 530g, respectively.

6 Skywatcher T-Mount adapter £10 and Variable Tele Extender £40 Little thingsmake a big difference, so they say and seldom has this been truer than when describing the humble T-Mount adapter. This is the vital link between your camera and the telescope, and it widens the world of astrophotography, allowing you to mount your DSLR or CSC onto the eyepiece connector tube and use the ’scope like a lens; a method called ‘prime focus’. You’ll need to pick the right one for your camera, but they are available for all major fits. The ones from Skywatcher are CNC machined and made from high-quality aluminium with black anodized finish to ensure long life. You can also use telescope eyepieces (offering different magnifications) if you get a suitable adapter, like the Skywatcher Tele Extender; a method called ‘eyepiece projection’. This adapter fits onto the telescope’s eyepiece holder, into which you place an eyepiece (for example, a common 26mm focal length). Your DSLR then attaches using the T-Mount. The extender’s length is variable, and is slackened using two grub screws, to give a range of projection, as it slides smoothly up and down.

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD £800

8 Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerised Reflector Telescope £350 Although it’s possible to produce great astrophotography using just a regular DSLR, a telephoto lens and a motorised mount, if you need further reach, or want to take your stargazingmore seriously, it’s time togo for a telescope (ontowhich you can mount your DSLR using a T-mount). For beginners, the Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a perfect model to go for. One of themany great features of this scope is that it features a fully computerised GoTo mount that helps you align the system; then key in one of over 4000 objects in the night sky and have the telescope find it for you. This poweredmount can be run off a 12V supply, or a using AA batteries. BeingaNewtonian reflector telescope, it uses mirrors instead of lenses in its light path, so viewing (and shooting) is clearer, and overall the set-up is lighter than equivalent refractor models with glass elements. Aperture size is very important, too, with larger versions producing a brighter, clearer view and the 130SLT’s 130mm (5in) spec gobbles up plenty of light, while unlike many ’scopes, its beginner-friendly design means setting up takes only a fewminutes.



Specialist tripod heads are used for specialist subjects; astrophotography is no different and to shoot highly detailed pictures of the night sky, you’ll need a star tracker like this one, the Vixen Polarie. This is a motorised camera support that moves the camera, keeping it trained on the stars as they move across the sky (or rather as the Earth rotates). This tracking motion makes sure that shots are kept pin-sharp, even when shooting exposures of many minutes to record the faintest objects; without it and with the camera still, you’ll just get streaks of light. Like other dedicated astronomical mounts, the Polarie must be aligned with the Pole star to get the correct rotation before it’s used, but this is simple thanks to its supplied compass, built-in latitude meter and polar sight. There are different rates of movement to track the stars, our own sun or the moon, and the tracker has a rated payload of 2kg. It runs off two easily replaceable AA batteries and can operate for over two hours before the batteries need changing, while at 137x95x58mm and 740g it’s small and light enough to justify taking out with you in the hope of clear skies.

There are plenty of reasons to own this versatile, high-quality zoom lens – it covers everything from portraits to sports shooting; and its huge zoom range means you can use it for great shots of the heavens, too. Try shooting the moon with the lens at its longest 600mmsettingandyou’ll pickout plenty of fine detail on the lunar surface, and if you’re using a DSLR with a smaller APS-C sized sensor, like a Canon EOS 760D or Nikon D5500, the view will be magnified to an equivalent focal length of 900mm. Thanks to its Vibration Compensation function, you even attempt those highly magnified shots handheld. Twinned with a star-tracking head, this zoom can be used to seek out distant nebulae and tiny galaxies as well as the moon, and shooting wider, at the 150mm end you can take in whole constellations. All that reach is nothing without excellent image quality to back it up, and the 150-600mm doesn’t disappoint. The lens uses a high-performance XLD (extra lowdispersion) element to avoid fringing and deliver bright, sharp, high-contrast images, while its eBAND coating, works to suppress flare and ghosting.

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