Canon EOS 60Da Takes the ‘a’ From Astrophotography

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The original Canon EOS 60D was released roughly a year and a half ago and has adequately filled a niche for small-form DSLRs able to capture quality images and video without bearing the bulk of higher-end cameras. This camera’s flexibility and neutral position between professional and consumer-grade cameras has inspired Canon to make a number of notable changes in order to enhance its characteristics for a specific, post-universal task: Astrophotography.

The EOS 60Da features almost an exact replica of specs from the 60D: it has an 18.0 megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor; expanded ISO sensitivity to 12800; the DIGIC 4 image processor for low noise and fast performance; and the highly useful 3.0-inch 1,040K-dot articulating LCD monitor. Where this new model significantly differs is in the IR cut filter; it has been modified for increased infrared light sensitivity. It is now able to achieve a hydrogen-alpha (Hα) light transparency (656nm) that is approximately three times higher than the standard 60D. This allows you take much clearer images of diffuse nebulae which exhibit a reddish tone when viewed without filtration. The 60Da also comes bundled with the RA-E3 remote controller adapter for use in combination with the optional TC-80N3 timer remote controller.

Modified Infrared Cut Filter

The major difference between the 60D and 60Da is the modified IR cut filter. Canon has altered the filter to provide the 60Da with greater infrared light sensitivity and enabled it to achieve hydrogen-alpha light transparency. Hydrogen-alpha, also referred to as H-alpha or Hα, is a very specific red visible spectral line created by hydrogen, with a wavelength of 656.28nm. This red visible line in the spectrum occurs when hydrogen electrons fluctuate between the second and third-tiered orbits (or energy levels) of a hydrogen atom (according to the Balmer Series). When they move between these levels they absorb or release energy, and this emission and absorption of energy occurs at 656nm. The IR cut filter modification of the 60Da helps to allow as much light as possible to pass through this narrow bandwidth at the H-alpha frequency. The modification essentially allows you to photograph reddish, diffuse nebulae and other astronomical phenomena in a clearer, more brilliant manner—void of the IR attenuation associated with traditional hot mirrors and other IR-blocking technologies on most cameras. The need to photograph light at this wavelength is paramount because the color of light emitted from nebulae is strongest, and most pure at the hydrogen-alpha line. The color of this light is outside the parameters of the visible spectrum, and our eyes, or camera, cannot accurately render this light without filtration. While most cameras are slightly more sensitive to this light than our eyes, the 60Da is three times more sensitive to this frequency than the 60D.

One thing worth noting with this camera, if you intend to use it for everyday photo shoots, you should plan on using an external IR cut filter to adapt the camera for normal use. Otherwise your images will be more susceptible to infrared radiation and color shifts, especially noticeable in darker lighting and shadows.

Articulating LCD Monitor

While the 3.0-inch 1,040,000-dot LCD monitor is a component of the original 60D, it proves to be just as functional for the 60Da, if not more. By having the monitor swivel and tilt, you can gain a much better perspective and view when your camera is mounted on a telescope; there is substantially more comfort afforded you versus a fixed monitor when shooting at high or low angles. The high resolution of the LCD also substantially increases the detailed focusing abilities when using the camera in Live View mode for astrophotography.

Remote Controller Adapter

The RA-E3 Remote Controller Adapter provides compatibility with the TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller for accurate control of long exposures. This interface also allows you to make automatically programmed, sequential shots using the interval timer. This can be especially useful when shooting in a scientific, regimented way where accuracy and timing is crucial.

The 60Da is geared for a specific niche in photography, and by making the necessary modifications in-camera, results are more seamless and easier to attain. The ability to clearly render images of outer space, free from the drawbacks of a normal camera, is a huge boost in efficiency. This camera is, of course, compatible with a number of T-mount adapters for connecting directly to a telescope. The 60Da will prove to be a valuable asset for astrophotographers by allowing for a more clear and concise workflow, providing you with a better view and greater photographic possibilities of the proverbial infinite frontier.

Camera Type Interchangeable Lens DSLR
Lens Mount Canon EF
Sensor Size APS-C (22.3 x 14.9mm)
Sensor Type CMOS
Image Processor DIGIC 4
Resolution 18MP
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Infrared Light Sensitivity H-alpha light transparency (656 nm)
Low-Pass Filter Fixed position in front of sensor
Dust Protection Self-cleaning sensor unit, dust delete data acquisition, manual cleaning
Still Image File Formats JPEG and RAW
Movie File Formats MOV (H.264)
Audio Formats Linear PCM
Focus Type Auto and Manual
File Size Large/Fine: Approx. 17.9MP (5184 x 3456)
Medium/Fine: Approx. 8.0MP (3456 x 2304)
Small 1/Normal: Approx. 4.5 MP (2592 x 1728)
Small 2/Fine: Approx. 2.5 MP (1920 x 1280)
Small 3/Fine: Approx. 0.35 MP (720 x 480)
RAW: Approx. 17.9 MP (5184 x 3456)
M-RAW: Approx. 10.1 MP (3888 x 2592)
S-RAW: Approx. 4.5 MP (2592 x 1728)
Color Space sRGB or Adobe RGB
Picture Style Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Defined 1–3
White Balance Auto (AWB), Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, Flash, Custom (Custom WB), Color Temperature
Color Temperature Compensation Blue/amber bias: ±9 levels
Magenta/green bias: ±9 levels
Viewfinder Type Eye-level pentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage Approx. 96%
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.95x
Viewfinder Angle of View 27.0° 
Eyepoint Approx. 22 mm
Built-In Diopter -3.0 to +1.0m
Autofocus Type TTL-CT-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor
AF Points 9 points (cross type)
AF Working Range EV -0.5 to 18
Focus Modes Autofocus and Manual Focus
Exposure Metering Modes Max. aperture TTL metering with 63-zone SPC
Metering Range EV 0 to 20
Exposure Control Program AE, Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Manual exposure, Bulb, Full Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Programmed Image Control modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait), E-TTL II autoflash program AE
ISO Sensitivity 100-6400 (up to 12800 in expanded mode)
Exposure Compensation Manual: ±5 stops in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments
AEB: ±3 stops in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments
AE Lock Auto AE lock and Manual AE lock
Shutter Type Vertical-travel, mechanical, focal-plane shutter with all speeds electronically controlled
Shutter Speeds 1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb
Self-Timer 10 or 2 sec. delay
Shutter Lag Time 0.06 sec.
Built-In Flash Type Auto pop-up, retractable, built-in flash in the pentaprism
Flash Metering E-TTL II autoflash
Guide Number 43' / 13 m (ISO 100)
Recycle Time Approx. 3 sec.
Flash Coverage Up to 17mm focal length (28mm equivalent in 35mm format)
Flash Exposure Compensation Up to ±3 stops in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments
PC Terminal None
Drive Modes Single, High-speed continuous, Low-speed continuous, Silent Single Shooting and Self-timer (10 sec. self-timer/remote control, or 2-sec. self-timer/remote control)
Continuous Shooting Speed Up to 5.3 fps
Maximum Burst JPEG (Large/Fine): approx. 58
RAW: approx. 16
RAW+JPEG (Large/Fine): approx. 7
LCD Monitor Type TFT color, Vari-angle LCD monitor (3:2)
Monitor Size 3.0" / 7.6 cm
Monitor Resolution Approx. 1,040,000-dot
Monitor Coverage Approx. 100%, Approx. 160° vertically and horizontally tilt
Interface Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Ukraine, Turkish, Arabic, Thai, Simplified/Traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Electronic Level LCD: Up to 360° horizontal pitch in 1° increments
Viewfinder: Up to ±9° horizontal pitch in 1° increments
Video File MPEG-4 AVC / H.264
Video File Size 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 640 x 480
Frame Rates 1080: 30, 25, 24 fps
720: 60, 50 fps
480: 30, 25 fps
Continuous Shooting Time (8GB memory card) 1080/30: 22 min.
25: 22 min.
24: 22 min.

720/60: 22 min.
50: 22 min.

480/60: 46 min.
25: 46 min.
Movie Exposure Compensation Up to ±3 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Image Playback Single image display (Two types of single-image full display and two types of shooting information display), Index display (4-image index and 9-image index), Jump display (1/10/100 images, shooting date, by folder, video, stills, rating), AF point display, Histogram (1. Brightness 2. RGB), Magnify zoom display (1.5x to 10x enabled in 15 steps), Rotated display (Manual, Auto) Slide Show (Image selection: Playback according to All images, Date, Folder
Interface USB 2.0, AV Out, Remote Control terminal
Recording Media SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
Power Source LP-E6 lithium-ion battery pack
Operating Temperature 32–104°F / 0–40°C
Operating Humidity 85% or less
Dimensions 5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1" / 14.5 x 10.7 x 7.9 cm
Weight 23.8 oz / 674.7 g

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Nice review.... you didn't mention price... a big part of the purchase.

Why 1500$? Are filter and remote controller so expensive(+600$ instead price of 60d)??! :))
Japans are cheerful guys)

Unless you are a professional these changes won't matter.

And if you are a professional you wouldn't go for a cropped censor.

Meaningless price increase.

HOW MUCH IS THE COST? I LOVE IT, THANKS

I guess transparency at the Hydrogen Alpha wavelength with a cut above this will not allow the use of this camera for terrestial infra-red landscape and suchlike. As in that application we normally capture wavelengths longer than 720 nm.

This is Canon's second EOS -Da camera of course - four or five years back they had a similar offering on special order only which was, from memory the EOS 20Da.

We infra-red landscape fans might appreciate a sensitivity range including light up to 900nm, which we could use with our 720nm R72 filters for IR and with an IR cut filter for visible light shooting. Does anyone know if this is possible.

Hello,

Many IR shooters remove their camera's IR/UV cutout filter giving them sensitivity to 900nm. Many IR shooters dedicate a body to this. An interesting feature of the Sigma DSLR bodies aside from the Foveon sensor is the IR/UV cutout filter is user removeable.  Other brands need the body to be serviced and you more than likely void your warranty.

Thank you for that, and yes I did know that, I even considered having the work done on my back-up EOS 5D and keep the Mk2 for normal work. I guess as far as any resale value the modified camera would be more difficult to sell.

The beauty (to me at least) of my suggestion is having a fully Canon warranted unit which could sell to the astrophotographers and to IR nuts like me.

It might even be useful to Forensic Scientists examining documents. We could all pick our wavelength band by just swapping filters.  I am not holding my breath while I wait for such a unit.

A final thought viewing the scene through a R72 filter is not easy unless the subject is very bright, could "live View" be persuaded to show what the sensor was recording as a monochrome display?

Hello,

Sigma designed the removeable filter to attract customer groups like law enforcement for crime scene investigations.  When Kodak made very high end DSLR's I believe they had an IR body that could be special ordered.  Why manufactures do not make an IR model I do not know, sorry.  When the 60Da is available, we can check to see if B&W viewing in Live View is possible. We tested a coworkers 7D and in B&W mode, the Live View was in monochrome.

Does this mean the price of the 60d will drop? Are they going to continue to produce the 60d?

60d is for normal photography, 60da is for astro photography (mainly). While it can be used for normal photography, as mentioned in the article, you should put on a filter to block out IR then. Not very practical for normal purposes, so it is a completely different market.

60D sales were fewer than Canon had hoped, so they took the extra bodies, made a few minor, inexpensive changes and are now marketing them as Astro cameras. That's all the 60Da is. Good idea, but there's nothing more to it than that.

I dont think the 60Da will make the 60D price drop, but other cameras may make it drop in price.

Want to buy the camera, but need to know which external IR control filter to get with it.  Your review links to a zillion different sizes. Or maybe the IR control filter goes in front of whatever canon lens I get for terestrial photography?

The filter size would depend on the lens. Most lenses have this listed next to the Θ symbol. If this is not on the lens, it will be listed in the manual. You can also lookup your lens on www.dpreview.com.

If you have multiple lenses, you may want to consider purchasing filters for the largest diameter, and adapter rings as it is often more economical.

Following up to my last comment, would this be a good package if I want to use terrestrially as well as with my telescope?

B+W 72mm 486 Digital UV/IR (MRC) Blocking Filter
B&H #BW486MC72  • Mfr #66-031975

Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM Autofocus Zoom Lens For Canon Cameras
B&H #SI1825035C  • Mfr #880-10

Kowa T-Mount SLR Camera Adapter for Canon EOS
B&H #KOTMCAF  • Mfr #TSN-CM2-CE

Canon EOS 60Da DSLR Astrophotography Camera (Body Only)

Yes, this is a good combination for you. You have chosen a filter that will meet your needs, and attach properly to your lens. Remember that you may need an additional adapter if your telescope does not have a t-mount. 

Thanks for that info!  I've placed my order.  I will need a T-mount, for my scope, but that's been on my list for awhile and now I have an excuse to act.  Thanks again!

This package worked very well for my eclipse trip to AZ!  While it's not a very good event to illustrate the IR light gathering benefits of the Canon 60Da, it shows how you can use this camera for every day use.  I'm very glad that I got the IR blocking filter for terrestrial pics as my experiments show both a color correction and a chromatic aberration correction with that blocking filter!  

Thanks for the great advice!

I have been reading about how to take astronomical pictures using 60Da.

It seems to me that you can only use this camera mounting on a telescope? Or, is there a Canon lens fit for this camera?

Confused.

Has anyone had experience achieving a crisp focus of nebulae (eg. M-31)  while using this camera attached to a telescope (say, an  f/10 Catadioptric) with a T-Mount ( no lens) and using only the on-camera controls? 

I have used every canon made aside from this one, focus is always able to be achieved with the right tools. there are alot of tools you can buy for this such as a diffraction mask, or simply using a window screen in front of your scope while focusing. The screen works wonders. Alway skew your scope to a bright star to focus and then skew to the object you wanna photograph. If I can get good photos through a dob with goto you can with your scope. Just take a wake of pictures and edit out the crap ones. Let me know how that camera works for ya, I want to buy one really soon,but haven't found a lot of reviews on it given that it has been out for a year and a half

i am interested in the canon 60Da for a strophotography. How is it suited for every photography with the right uv filter. Are there any drawbacks. Regards lee 

You will have to get IR cut filters to use on your lenses to block out the IR part of the spectrum, but other than that you could use it for general photography.  Once you put an IR cut filter on your lenses, the camera would essentially just be a 60D. There might still be some color shift, but it should be verry little with the filters.