Eyepiece Projection vs Prime Focus- Which is Better for Astro-imaging?




Eyepiece Projection vs Prime Focus

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

The prime focus approach is preferred if you have a high-quality telescope and camera with flat field characteristics. Eyepiece projection is a simpler design that works well with consumer telescopes or DSLR imagers, making it the more popular option for astrophotography amateurs. Most astronomers prefer eyepiece projection to prime focus because of the imaging and magnification benefits it offers.

Astro-imaging is an exciting hobby that can be challenging to get into. If you are just getting started, then there are a few things you need to know before deciding on the best setup for your telescope.

The two main methods of astrophotography- eyepiece projection and prime focus – are both good choices, but they each have their pros and cons. This article will explore the difference between these setups and what it means for Astro-imaging.

What is Prime Focus in Astrophotography?

This is the most basic form of astrophotography, in which the telescope serves as the camera lens. There is no lens on the camera, and the telescope does not have an eyepiece.

The camera film plane (also known as the CCD) is placed at the focal point of the telescope’s main lens.

This method produces the widest, brightest fields and shortest exposure times. It’s most often used to image nebulae, galaxies, and other enormous deep sky objects in space.

The simplest way to do this is with a macro lens. Your camera must have a detachable lens (SLR/CCD/DSLR Imagers).

Most point-and-shoot cameras are ruled out because of their slow performance.

Prime focus photography may be used to capture a variety of images, including colorful nebulae and galaxies. However, of all the forms, it is the method that needs the most practice, skill, and above all else, the appropriate gear.

You can learn to take photos and anybody else with this approach if you put your mind to it.

What Kind Of Photographs Can You Take With Prime Focus Method?

If you don’t have a very big telescope, stick to the moon and the planets if your scope has a long focal length. Because they are bright, it is simpler to photograph than faint deep-sky objects.

The disadvantage of prime focus is that you can’t do much guiding; there’s nothing to look through throughout the exposure. You cannot see through the camera’s viewfinder while you have the shutter open).

There’s an off-axis guider that separates some of the light during the exposure so you can view it. In practice, your exposure time is limited only by your ability to control and illuminate the sky with one of these.

It can be used to capture any moving subject and is ideal for the street, landscape, and other types of photography. This technique may also be utilized in low light conditions because it does not require the use of a flash; however, you have limited to brief (a few seconds) exposures if you do not have the off-axis.

The major advantages of the prime focus system include:

  • Because there are fewer optical components to add to aberrations, such as with eyepiece projection, image quality is superior.
  • Because of their greater f-ratios, shorter exposure durations are required.

Any Downsides for Prime Focus in Astrophotography?

The most difficult aspect of achieving prime focus is getting the exposure correct. Because the sky is so dark, your camera’s light-meter probably won’t function correctly (because it wasn’t meant to work in these conditions).

The most effective thing to do is take lots of different exposure settings, note them all down, and compare them to the photographs when they return from the lab (whereas film owners must wait for the lab’s results). In order to acquire the skill, you should expect to lose one or two rolls of film.

The magnification you receive is surprisingly low. It is about the focal length of your telescope divided by 50.

You may use a Barlow lens to enhance the magnification. Because most camera-telescope adaptors include a screw thread in their barrel, you may remove the lens from your telescope and replace it with the Barlow to double the magnification (but note that you lose light and sharpness).

With this approach, keep in mind that the film may have darkened corners due to the telescope’s lens being rounded and the film being square, commonly known as vignetting. It doesn’t matter in most situations since the background is dark anyway.

What is Eyepiece Projection in Astrophotography?

This approach requires a camera with a detachable lens, so it’s usually limited to CCD/SLRs/DSLRs Imagers. An eyepiece is connected to the camera body, which sits in the optical train between the camera and telescope.

The image is projected onto the film surface (or CCD) by the eyepiece. This feature allows you to increase the magnification in the same way as it does visually.

Shorter focal length eyepieces have a higher magnification than longer focal length eyepieces.

In most cases, rather basic eyepiece types are ideal for this usage. You may modify the distance between the CCD and the eyepiece using a “Variable” projection adapter.

This alters the system’s magnification, giving you more leeway when framing photos.

What Can You Photograph with the Eyepiece Projection Method?

This technique is frequently used for Lunar & Planetary imaging, in which a higher magnification is required to reveal fine detail. The eyepiece projection is also an excellent technique to capture clear images of the moon and planets.

The objects pictured in these photos are considerably greater than those captured with a primary focus approach.

There are a variety of mounting systems for eyepieces, but some have a threaded top with which you may attach an adaptor to create a very solid and precisely aligned threaded attachment point.

Any Downsides for Eyepiece Projection in Astrophotography?

One of the problems with this approach is attaching the camera to the telescope firmly and correctly aligning it with the eyepiece. To achieve this, you need a mounting system to fix the camera in place.

There are several designs for these adaptors, and they vary slightly between manufacturers. If you don’t have access to one of these, attach your camera directly onto the eyepiece using an elastic band or some tape (which is not recommended).

So Which One is better? Prime Focus or Eyepiece Projection?

Because of the fewer lens components used in prime focus, aberrations are fewer, and therefore, the image quality is superior compared to eyepiece projection. However, the prime focus is difficult to achieve.

Again, because of their greater f-ratios, shorter exposure durations are required in the prime focus system. In the eyepiece projection method, longer exposure durations are required.

The prime focus approach is preferred if you have a high-quality telescope and camera with flat field characteristics.

Again, getting the exposure correct can be a challenge. The magnification in this system is also relatively low.

Eyepiece projection is a simpler design that works well with consumer telescopes or DSLR imagers, making it the more popular option for astrophotography amateurs. It is great when you need higher magnification and offers clear images of the planet and the moon.

The size of the pictures achieved using eyepiece projection is also larger.

In general, most astronomers prefer eyepiece projection to prime focus because of the imaging and magnification benefits it offers. So we can conclude that the latter takes the day when it comes to Prime Focus vs. Eyepiece Projection.

Final Thoughts

When comparing eyepiece projection and prime focus, it is clear that the prime focus method requires more technical knowledge and better equipment.

However, for a hobbyist astrophotographer, eyepiece projection offers excellent results with simpler setups.

Please be careful and use at your own risk
None of the authors, contributors, administrators, or anyone else connected with StarryNova, in any way whatsoever, can be responsible for your use of the information contained in or linked from these web pages.

About the author