Handheld Moon Photography Test

This article shares a handheld moon photography test image that I created yesterday evening using my E-M1X’s Digital Teleconverter and M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter. I’ve never been very interested in astral photography, and as regular readers know, I hate using a tripod. The combination of those two factors has resulted in me pretty much ignoring moon photography.

During the past several months I’ve been doing some field testing using my E-M1X’s Digital Teleconverter. This testing has included using the Digital Teleconverter technology in combination with my M.Zuiko MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters. Results have been somewhat mixed.

A couple of days ago it occurred to me that a significant challenge could be a handheld moon photography test that used a combination of the Digital Teleconverter with an M.Zuiko teleconverter. The night sky was sufficiently clear yesterday evening for me to give this a whirl.

My handheld moon photography test included two batches of test images. I leaned on the hood of my car to help stabilize my elbows for all of my handheld moon photography test images.

The first batch of images was with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens  in combination with the MC-20 and the Digital Teleconverter. As I anticipated, I was not able to get any acceptable images from this part of my handheld moon photography test.

When my M.Zuiko 100-400 was fully extended and both teleconverters were engaged, it resulted in the moon more than filling the frame of my composition. Additionally, shooting at f/13 with the MC-20 in combination and Digital Teleconverter was not producing acceptable image quality.

Unless I used a faster shutter speed I was unable to handhold well enough to get a reasonable looking image.  This was expected as my focal length with that combination of gear was 1600 mm or an efov of 3200 mm. The other issue was that I was trying to keep my ISO as close to base ISO-200 as possible to limit noise in my resulting jpeg output.

After spending a little time in post with my initial batch of handheld moon photography test images I decided to switch to the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter and use it in combination with the Digital Teleconverter. This combination proved to be the ideal focal length (i.e. 1120 mm, efov 2240 mm) as I could frame the moon nicely in my composition, when my M.Zuiko 100-400 zoom was fully extended.

My initial  work in post processing with my first batch of test images was very instructive. I decided that it would be beneficial for me to purposely underexpose my base jpeg capture, then do some adjustments in post to get it to where it needed to be.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 Teleconverter and Digital Teleconverter @ 1120 mm, efov 2240 mm, f/9, -1.3 EV, 1/500, ISO-125, out-of-camera jpeg with no adjustments in post, full frame capture without any cropping

The image above is my out-of-camera jpeg without any adjustments done in post. At first blush it may look a bit strange… but it was exactly what I was hoping to create at this stage in the imaging process. I used a focal length of 400 mm in combination with the M.Zuiko MC-14 and Digital Teleconverter. This resulted in a focal length of 1120 mm or an efov of 2240 mm.

To create this photograph I used a single AF point and shot using Continuous Auto-Focus with Sequential Low Silent Shutter set to 10 frames per second. My shutter speed was 1/500. Since I was using the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter my aperture was f/9. I used multi-zone metering and set my exposure compensation to -1.3 EV. I used Auto ISO with my E-M1X choosing ISO-125.

Over the years I’ve looked at a few articles with ‘recommended moon photography’ settings. None of these article ever made any sense to me for my style of shooting as they typically suggested using a tripod and often recommended using manual focus.

Let’s have a look at my handheld moon photography test image after some very quick adjustments were made in post. You can toggle back and forth by clicking on the images if you would like to compare them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 Teleconverter and Digital Teleconverter @ 1120 mm, efov 2240 mm, f/9, -1.3 EV, 1/500, ISO-125, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post, full frame capture without any cropping

Post processing of this version of the out-of-camera jpeg was actually very simple. I opened up my out-of-camera jpeg in PhotoShop CS6 and used the Levels adjustment get more differentiation in the original exposure.

Then I made two quick adjustments using my old copy of the Nik Collection to finish processing the jpeg. The first adjustment was in Viveza 2 with tweaks to Contrast and Structure.  I then used Color Efex Pro 4 and made a small adjustment with Pro Contrast. That was all I needed to do in post.

I didn’t use DxO PhotoLab 4 at all. Nor did I use Topaz Denoise AI or Topaz Sharpen AI. Since my image was captured handheld at ISO-125 I did not bother applying any noise reduction at all. I had this out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post processing in less than 2 minutes.

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting for even a second that the results of this handheld moon photography test image are excellent. Far from it. What I am saying is that for my style of shooting and my specific needs, the final out-of-camera processed jpeg image was more than acceptable given that it was captured handheld at a focal length of 1120 mm (efov 2240 mm).

A huge bonus for me is that creating this photograph was surprisingly easy to do. I didn’t need a tripod or any other specialized equipment, nor did I have to muck around with manual focusing, or spend an inordinate amount of time with post processing.

I could shoot handheld with technology that is resident in my E-M1X in terms of its IBIS (in body image stabilization) performance and the Digital Teleconverter. I always have my M.Zuiko MC-14 with me when using the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom. This gives me the freedom to create this type of image on a whim as my spirit moves me.

 Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs. All photographs are displayed as full frame captures with no cropping done to them. Images have been resized for web use. This is the 1,317 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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