Outdoors / Buying Guide

A Buying Guide for Solar and Solar Eclipse Viewing

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On August 21, 2017, North America will be treated to the First of a Lifetime event—a complete solar eclipse. It will track from coast to coast and 10 states will be in its path (for details, see the B&H Explora article I co-wrote with my colleague, Todd Vorenkamp, Mark Your Calendars: North American Solar eclipse 2017), and millions of people will have a chance to view it. You might be asking yourself, “Why are you writing this more than eight months before the event?” Great question… and the answer is this: Eclipse-viewing optics can also be used for general solar observing, so anything you get now can be used any time. I wrote up top that this is a First of a Lifetime event, because seven years later, on April 8, 2024, we get ANOTHER eclipse, which takes a virtually mirror course to the one this year, so you can buy gear now and it’ll STILL be useful for the next seven years! For further reading, see the B&H Explora article Solar and Solar Eclipse Viewing 101.

OK, so besides the eclipse, why solar observing? First of all, the Sun is ALWAYS there. Every day. Guaranteed. Other celestial bodies, such as planets or meteor showers, or even the phase of the Moon, come and go in cycles—some can require months or years of waiting. Not the Sun. The Sun rises every morning. Next is the convenience: Conventional astronomy requires you to stay up late, throwing your sleep cycles off, especially, as just mentioned, if you’ve been waiting years for an event. Finally, the views: Since solar observing has typically been relegated to a very niche market, there aren’t a lot of people who truly understand the awe-inspiring views. From the chromosphere, corona, and coronal mass ejections, to sunspots, flares, and filaments, the Sun offers amazing things to experience.

Before we get to the gear, I feel the need for a disclaimer. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT CERTIFIED SOLAR VIEWING INSTRUMENTS. I know it might sound like a trope, but looking at the Sun for even a second will (not might—WILL) cause irreparable harm up to and including blindness. Extreme caution must be observed, especially when observing with children.

Now, on to the gear. For the scope of this piece, we’re going to go in order, from the most basic all the way up to research-grade gear for observing our closest star.

Shades, Goggles, and Binoculars

The most basic piece of solar observing equipment is the solar shade. Made of heavy-stock paper or cardboard, the “lens” is mylar, which blocks more than 99.99% of visible light plus UV and IR. Vixen Optics makes this version that comes individually, and Celestron makes a similar model, part of its EclipSmart line that comes in a 4-pack or 50-pack (for schools or astronomy clubs). Building on that, Celestron also has an 8-piece observing and imaging kit that includes four solar shades, a pair of solar glasses (think sunglasses specifically for looking at the Sun), a solar photo filter, and a couple of accessories.

Vixen Optics Solar Glasses

Finally, in this category, are solar binoculars. These are conventional-looking binoculars, but have solar filters installed on the front objectives. Offered by Celestron and Lunt Solar Systems, they come in a variety of configurations, including 10x25 and 10x42.

Lunt Solar Systems 8x32 White Light SUNocular Binocular

Since these optics have low or no magnification, you’ll mostly just see the Sun’s disk with very little detail. These optics are for introductory users and especially useful for the eclipse.

Solar Scopes

The two main players in the consumer solar telescope market are Coronado (a subsidiary of Meade Instruments) and Lunt Solar Systems. A dedicated solar scope is built like a traditional refractor style, but with purpose-built filters (called etalons), and usually with a special system that allows you to tune, or isolate, the wavelength for which the scope has been designed. The most popular wavelength is Hydrogen-alpha (H-alpha) because this the broadest wavelength and allows you to see the largest variety of details. Other wavelengths include Calcium-K and Sodium-D. Each wavelength reveals different aspects of the Sun.

Because of various factors, such as atmospheric interferences, you will often need to tune the etalon(s) to get the wavelength isolated correctly. The number of etalons, the size of the blocking filters, the tuning mechanism (or lack of it), and the aperture all affect the image that is produced. The more filters and the finer the tuning, the more you’ll be able to tease out details on the surface and filaments that are otherwise impossible to resolve.

The Coronado line has been around for years, and offered in 40mm, 60mm, and 90mm apertures. These scopes all view in the H-alpha wavelength, with a conventional tilt-tuning system where the etalon is physically tilted for tuning. This is a simple and effective system, but it can cause distortion if tuned too heavily. These are offered in various configurations, including single and double-stacked etalons and blocking filters of various sizes. If you have a mount or photo tripod, you can get just the optical tube assembly (OTA), and if you need a complete rig, there are kits with motorized GoTo mounts that will track the Sun for you—especially helpful if you want to image or photograph the Sun. The GoTo mount is compatible with many other OTAs so you can also use it for conventional astronomical telescopes with full GoTo and tracking.

Coronado SolarMax II 60 60mm f/6.6 H-alpha Solar Telescope

Lunt offers a step-up in capabilities from the Coronado. You can get OTAs in conventional tilt systems, but this company has solved the distortion issue through the use of a pressure tuner. Inside the optical tube there is a sealed section, and when you tune the scope you increase and decrease the pressure (causing the air to become more or less dense) in the sealed portion to isolate the wavelength. This results in a clearer image without the distortion. Lunt offers apertures from 50mm up to 152mm in tilt or pressure-tuned, single- or double-etalon, OTA-only or OTA kits. Again, the models with the GoTo mounts can also be used for conventional astronomy by swapping out the solar scope with a nighttime OTA.

Lunt Solar Systems LS80THA 80mm f/7 Hydrogen-A Solar Refractor Telescope

In addition to Coronado and Lunt, Celestron makes another appearance with its most basic telescope offering with the EclipSmart 50mm solar scope, which distinguishes itself as a full observational platform complete with OTA, eyepiece, and tripod—and it all fits inside the included backpack for optimized portability. One of my personal favorite manufacturers, iOptron, offers three iterations of its Solar 60 scope. They all come with the Cube-E GoTo mount and tripod, but it’s the options that separate the three models. You can get the GPS version for precision setup, the GPS mount with an eyepiece imaging camera, or just the mount and tripod with the imaging camera (no GPS). While the Solar 60 doesn’t have a tuning system, the front solar filter unscrews from the dew shield and it can then be used as a conventional scope—increasing its usability.

iOptron Solar 60 GPS Refractor Telescope

Daystar Filters offers a conventional astronomical refractor bundled with one of its Quark solar filters (see below). The first one is the Chromosphere Quark that is tuned to reveal the surface of the chromosphere, and the second is the Prominence Quark, which is tuned slightly differently for the details of the chromosphere that are seen projecting from the disk and viewed against the blackness of space behind it.

DayStar Filters 480E 80mm Refractor Telescope with Quark Prominence Filter Kit

Solar Filters for Astronomical Telescopes

In a class all by themselves are Daystar Filters. Using an electronic temperature tuning system, Daystar offers a variety of solar filters that are used to modify conventional refractors, Schmidt-Cassegrains, and Maksutov-Cassegrain OTAs for solar viewing. This manufacturer’s Quark simply installs in the focuser draw tube and the eyepiece goes into the Quark. As mentioned above, there are two primary models—Chromosphere and Prominence—both tuned to H-alpha, with others tuned to Calcium-K and Sodium-D. Another product line from Daystar is the Ion. These use a temperature-tuner that is electronically controlled using a digital system for ultra-precision bandwidth tuning.

DayStar Filters QUARK H-Alpha Eyepiece Solar Filter

Leading the pack for Daystar is the Quantum line. Employing the same tuning system as the Ion, the Quantum is ideal for observation and imaging, and is offered in Hydrogen-alpha, Calcium-K, and Sodium-D to give you the full spectrum of wavelengths from which to choose. The H-alpha versions come tuned for various bandwidths, from 0.3-0.8 Angstroms, along the wavelength to allow for focused observation on specific areas of interest. What sets this line apart from others is that it is offered in a standard grade for consumer use and in a research grade for institutions, and being outfitted with an RS-232 port, these filters can be wired to a computer for remote tuning control.

DayStar Filters SoliRed 127mm f/8 H-Alpha Solar Telescope

Lunt and Coronado also make an appearance here with non-tunable eyepiece filters. Offered in many configurations and combo kits, and tuned to various wavelengths, these are also used to convert conventional telescopes into solar scopes.

Coronado SolarMax II 40mm H-a Etalon with 10mm Blocking Filter Set

Grab Some Gear

The Sun offers an incredible array of ever-changing sights and experiences to which nothing in traditional astronomy can compare. As we, as a continent, prepare for the solar eclipse in August, take some time now to get to know our star, and all the incredible things it has to show us. In the realm of solar viewing, there are endless options available to you—from paper solar shades for $15 to research-quality precision-tuned instruments that can run upwards of $13,500—it all depends on your level of interest and budget. Now grab some gear, exercise caution to protect your eyes, and get out there and start observing the Sun.

Share your solar-observation experiences below, in the Comments section.

For the quickest way to get your solar viewing and solar eclipse gear, click on this link!

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What kind of ND filter can I use?  i have a 10 and a variable ND filter.  Thanks in advance.

You can't use an ND filter.  You need to use a special solar filter.  While ND filters will darken the light that enters, ND filters do not block IR rays or UV rays broadcasted by the Sun that can be harmful to your eyes and the sensor of a camera.

Adriana 

Hi todd

I'm  living in Florida what is the best time to we can see the Solar Eclipse

Thanks 

Good afternoon Adriana...The best thing to do is follow the link below and find your town on the map and drop a pin on it.A pop-up window will open and give you the start and end times, the amount of Obscuration you can expect, plus a bunch of other useful info. A note about the time...I believe it will give you the time in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), so you'll need to adjust the time shown for your local time...which I believe is -4 hours.

I was told that I could make my own safrty lens from a cardboard box, and a piece of paper, Do you know if this will be safr?

Pat...the method you're referring to is a type of "Camera Obscura". The process is fairly simply: Get a box and tape the piece of white paper to one of the inside walls. Punch a small hole in the wall of the box opposite the paper, and put your head in the box FACING the white piece of paper (I know what you're thinking, but please stick with me...). Tilt the box up toward the sun (the side with the hole in it) and when the sun shines through the hole an image of the sun will be projected onto the sheet of paper. I know it sounds a bit awkward and inelegant, but it is a safe way to view the eclipse if you can't get hold of some safe solar viewing glasses.

The purpose of putting your head in the box is to improve the image quality by blocking peripheral light from drowning out the image. Of course, you could use a smaller box (like a shoe box) and build and use it the same way, but your view won't be as sharp...and it wouldn't make for as much of a fun picture as if you're wearing a box on your head!

If you decide to go this route, you should practice before the eclipse because finding the sun this way will take a little bit of getting used to. As always, please put safety first and NEVER look directly at the sun without proper eye protection. I'm sure a simple google search will have illustrated directions on how to make it and use it safely.

Hi, I purchased a 5 pack of solar viewing cards from B&H Photo that are made by Meade. They have a long rectanglual solar lense in the center for viewing. But the cards do not list the current ISO number that is recommended. There is an EN number but not an ISO number, I just saw a news report today that said that if it does not have this ISO number, it is not safe to use.  I am wondering if they are safe to use; and why B&H would sell a solar viewing product that does not carry the latest ISO number. 

Excellent question Christine...All of the Meade products are absolutely safe for solar viewing. The EN number is given because they were likely made in China and the use the European safety standard. If the testing was done in the US, it would carry the ISO. Meade is one of the leading manufacturers of telescopes and optics in the world and can be relied on to produce safe solar viewing products - in fact, I have used the Meade solar glasses during my gear checks leading up to my trip to the Eclipse and can speak to their safety from personal experience.

Why have all the Meade eclipseview paper glasses been discontinued suddenly and all reference to them have been removed from Meade's site?

Dave...my guess is that they sold out and were not going to be able to replenish their supplies before the eclipse.

Good Evening,

I have an Olympus OM-D and I am hoping to photograph the solar eclipse in Washington, DC.  I know I need an ISO Certified Solar Filter.  Unfortunately a year ago I loss one of the lenses I have so the only lens I have is 12-50 mm. My guess is that I may need another lens beside a solar filter.  Any suggestions? I will probably have to borrow from the likes of Borrow Lenses, so  I need to hop on it soon.

Thank you for your advice.  

Hey Katrina,

Sorry for the delay...I don't check incoming on this article.

Please check this article if you are thinking of another lens: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/recommended-lenses-shooting-solar-eclipse-any-budget

But, if you want to use your 12-50mm (which will work, by the way), you'll need a 52mm filter, or a filter sheet. Unfortunately, we dont carry any 52mm filters, so you can get a larger filter and a step-up ring. And, the other bad news is that everything has been backordered for some time. I hope you can find something!

Good luck!

Which of the glasses can be used over regular prescription glasses? Would it be safer to use them over prescription sunglasses or the clear prescription glasses?

Thanks!

Great question, Robert...sadly there isn't an easy answer.

First, as far as the regular eyeglasses vs Rx sunglass, I'd probably go with your regular eyeglasses. The filters are going to dim the sun so much, you don't need anything more than that - and depending on the tint, the net dimming of the sun might interfer with the views.

Now, for what style of solar glasses will fit over your eyeglasses, it entirely depends on the size and style of the frame. If you have a low-profile rimless style, then most anything will fit over them...if you have larger plastic 'hipster' frames, then probably not.

These Meades have a larger lens and might be good for many frames: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1331314-REG/meade_727004_eclipseview_standard_solar_glasses.html

If you have larger frames, then you might want to go with a viewing card. You just hold it up to your eyes, so there's no fitting over the frame required: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1331313-REG/meade_727006_eclipseview_viewing_cards_5_pack.html

We are setting up a public viewing of the eclipse from where we are, and I'd like to know what rig is on the telescope in the photo for thsi article. It looks perfect for multiple people to see the eclipse at the same time. We have been just holding up some posterboard to project on to, but this looks way better, with the orange glow and everything and folks could take more meanignful pictures with this set up.

That is actually a stock photo, but it looks like it's an Explore Scientific Essential Apo ED triplet refractor (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1046072-REG/explore_scientific_es_ed10207_01_ed_102_white_essential.html) or similar on a heavy-duty motorized EQ mount. For the puposes is the eclipse, you probably only need a single-axis DEC motor if you know how to equatorially align your mount during the day (Google Declination Drift Alignment Method and you should find some tutorials). The rear projection rig is not anything I've seen before.

I'm going to Oregon with the B&H team, and we're using a 60mm white-light filtered refractor with an eyepiece camera that we'll be streaming to a large (50-ish") TV.  Specifically: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1160293-REG/ioptron_8807_the_solar_60_gps.html?sts=pi

Perhaps I've overlooked it, but for all of the astronomy guidance you omit a common B&H customer scenario - a photographer with objective ND filters (also an unanswered question by Darryl Hendricks 3 weeks ago).

It seems that a 100,000x reduction is needed, which works out to ~16.5 stops of ND to safely view and compose with an optical viewfinder.  Although stacking a couple filters may be less than ideal, how does it compare to a white spectrum solar filter?

Good morning,

This is a common question, and I apologize for not seeing this sooner. The issue with ND filters is that since they are designed for photography, there is no ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) blocking to them, so while the intense bright light will be brought down to a safe level, your eye would recieve an enormous amount of UV and IR radiation that can casue catastrophic harm to your eyes - and since we have no pain receptors for radiation, you won't know it's happening until it's too late. You need to ensure you use filters that are certified for "Safe Direct Solar Viewing"...currently the most reliable of these is the ISO 12312-1:2015.

As an aside, if you are using ND filters on your camera make sure you don't use an optical viewfinder as you'll run into the same issue as outlined above. ONLY use ND filters if you have a digital viewfinder or are planning on using the 'live-view' feature on the rear display screen. If you don't know what kind of viewfinder your camera has, DO NOT use an ND filter until you find out.

Chris are you suggesting that ND filters are going to do the job for photographers as long as they use the live view screen on their camera?    I would like to see that verified because I beileve you are putting your sensor at risk by doing this.  Canon is selling the Hoya Pro ND 100000 67mm filter to work with their consumer lenses but they do say only use live view to focus and not the optical viewfinder.  I do not know if that filter has special coatings to block out IR and UV rays or not but I think this needs to be clarified.   As far as I know B&H seems to be offering screw on mount solar filters for a reason.  Why would B&H do that if ND filters were all that was needed to get the job done.

Personally I bought a Solar filter myself from the badder institute. 

I'm current looking for lens to be using on my film camera.   I have 60-300 MM lens but it is not working well, so I'm looking for new lens from Pentax.  Any size would you recommend?  Thank!

Hey Michael,

Sorry for the delay in replying. 

Hopefully you saw this article: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/recommended-lenses-shooting-solar-eclipse-any-budget

Not sure what your budget is, but this looks like an amazing lens and it is on special TODAY: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1117719-REG/pentax_21340_hd_pentax_d_fa.html

I will be taking my Sony 6500 with a 3.5-5.6/16-50 kit lens. I would like to get a filter and have the Sony set-up to shoot video. What type of filter do you recommend? I will also have my Nikon 7200 with a Nikon 70-300 mm lens for larger single shots.  I have already bought a filter for it. Finally, I will have my Nikon 5000 set up to film the changes on the ground. Any other suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help!

Hi Kat,

You can get any of the screw-in solar filters, but to speed up the change process during totality, you might want to look at the filters that go over the front of the lens and can be removed faster than the screw-in filters.

Also, if you plan on looking through your optical viewfinder on the Nikon, you need a Mylar filter...not the dark ND filters as they are only for Live View and EVFs.

Sounds like you have a good plan in place!

Could you please point me to the filters that go over the front of the lens in your store? I have looked and THINK I know what you are referring to but I would like to be sure.

Thanks so much!

I 'm thinking of using Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens to shoot the eclipse. Should I use the Canon 1.4x or 2.0x extender with it? Pros/Cons? Thanks.

Hey Alex,

The teleconverters should work well for the eclipse! The downside is a bit less sharpness, so you might want to take some shots with and without, or, better yet, do some solar photography before the event to see the differences between teleconverted and not teleconverted!

Good question! Thanks!

I have a Nikon D3200 with a Nikkor 55-200 zoom.  What type inexpensive solar filter will fit?  Will the Day Star Filter 50mm White-Light Univeral Lens Solar Filter work?

Hi Rick - 

This should work:

Utilizing a spring-folded assembly design to hold it securely in place on a , the Daystar Filters 50mm White-Light Universal Lens Solar Filter allows you to safely view or photograph the sun and solar eclipses. Its filter is made of the 12312-2 ISO-certified SOLARITE film, which stops more than 99.999% of intense light, plus 100% of harmful IR and UV radiation — revealing sunspots and super granules on the solar surface. Made to fit on the front of lenses, telescopes, spotting scopes, or other optics and imaging devices, this version of the ULF can accommodate housings, sunshades, and dew shields with an outside diameter from 50-69mm (1.96-2.71"). The filter has a clear aperture of 50mm, so vignetting may occur when used on lenses and optics that approach the maximum recommended diameter in the size range.

I have a couple of different (10 stop and a variable 2-8) ND filters. Will these suffice or so I need s specific solar filter?

Thank you

I have an OMD E-M10.  The longest native micro four thirds lens commonly available without spending an arm and TWO legs is 150mm, which yields an equivalent 300mm.  Based on guides I've seen it seems like 600-800mm (eq) is a good balance between detail and corona.  Panasonic offers a terrific 100-400mm that would be perfect, but I can't spend $1800 for a lens I won't really use later.  I've looked at renting this lens, which is actually reasonable at $104 + shipping.  Unfortunately this option does not afford me much time to practice since I'll only get the lens a few days ahead of time.  This got me looking at other options.

Option 1 is a 300mm T-mount mirror lens plus MFT adapter.  This is a relatively affordable package at $200-250, but will be limited to 600mm (eq) with no ability to adjust if I'm cropping too much corona.

My second option is a relatively affordable telephoto zoom lens for a full size SLR plus a micro four thirds adapter.  You currently offer several 70/75-300mm lenses for Canon or Nikon for less than $160 .  One open box Nikon Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G is only $109.  Add a basic adapter and this combo could cost as little as $160.

Are there any issues associated with using a lens adapter?  Specifically, I was wondering about the impact of the adapter on focal length since it is essentially an extension tube.  Also I wonder what the lens aperture will do without camera control, since these less expensive lenses do not appear to have manual aperture controls.

Obviously neither option will give me auto focus or controls, but this isn't really an issue for the eclipse where it wil be locked at infinity.  The SLR lens option could be a more versatile, albeit manual lens for future use.

Any thoughts on the two options?  

Thanks

Hey James,

All good questions. Here we go...hopefully I wont miss anything...

1. Renting the 100-400 is a pretty good option, me thinks. You can practice with other lenses to get familiar with that focal length before the event, and then do some more practice once you get it in hand.

2. Mirror lenses are good, but not great. And, as you stated, you will be locked into that focal length. I might rank this as your last-place option.

3. I like the adapted lens idea. Are there any issues with adapting? Not really. There is no impact on focal length. Yes, it is just like an extension tube, but the adapter only serves to provide the extra distance between lens and sensor that a Nikon or Canon body would natively provide, so you aren't actually using an extension tube in the traditional sense—the flange-to-film plane distance of an SLR is much greater than a mirrorless camera.

Here are a few things to consider when looking at a Canon or Nikon lens to adapt: Canon has had electronic apertures for years and Nikon has just gotten into them. I think you have to look at Canon FD lenses to see an actual aperture ring and Nikon dropped the aperture ring with their G lenses. So, the adapter either has to be able to control the lens aperture electronically (or mechanically on some Nikon G lenses), or you are stuck shooting wide open with no option to step the lens down. If you go with older Nikon or Canon (or Pentax or whatever) glass, you can control the aperture manually with the ring on the lens. Additionally, older lenses have a better manual focus "feel" than the newer glass, and, when doing critical focus on a distant object, this might be helpful.

So, for me, I would be tempted to practice without that 100-400, and then rent it and do some good practice before the event, or get a cool, older telephoto and adapt it. There is also a bit of a cool factor to say you did a photo with an old lens adapted for your mirrorless. The mirror lens comes in a distant third.

Standing by for follow-ups!

I live in Nashville, TN so I get to see totality from my back yard.  Planning to take photos, and I understand the need for the solar filter when photographing the partial eclipse phase.  

It's safe to view the total eclipse with the naked eye so no filter required, but I was wondering if any other type of filter is recommended during totality?  Perhaps to enhance the photo in some way?

Hey James,

I'll be heading to Nashville for the event. Let's hope it isn't cloudy!

Yes, you are correct; you need a filter for the partial phases. During totality, I would not use any kind of filter. I don't know of one that will enhance the photo, and even a high-end clear UV filter might create flare or ghosting in your image. My advice is to use a "naked" lens during totality!

Todd Vorenkamp wrote:

I'll be heading to Nashville for the event. Let's hope it isn't cloudy!

Thanks, and definitely praying to the weather gods.  We're so close to the peak area that a LOT of people will be disappointed if the weather does not cooperate.  Actually, I have to check my backyard for obstructions.  I might have to travel a little anyway.  One bonus if I do will be more time in totality.  At my house I will only get 1:15.

Good luck to us all, and don't get too crazy in the honky tonks once the sun sets.

Sounds like a plan!

My hotel is in the path, so I don't have to go far! I am mentally preparing to chase the weather and drive somewhere clear, if possible!

What type of solar filter & size do you recommend over my canon 500 f4 mm lense.? I plan to use my 2x telaconverter.

There are solar filters that can adjust to fit the front of varying lenses with different sized front diameters. You would want to measure the outside diameter of the front of your 500mm f/4. You could then check to see which/if any of the adjustable solar filters would work for your lens.

My wife bought me a Coronado PST for my birthday a few months back knowing I want to chase the 2017 eclpse, howver I am not sure if it is possible to capture Images through the PST using standard eyepice adaptor to DSLR. What is the best way for me to image the eclipse using my new PST with its Hydrogen Alpha filter ?

Thanks in adavance

Good day Frank, thanks for the question.

There are a few things to say before I answer it. First is that the H-alpha filter in the PST won't be effective during Totality (since the sun will be completely blocked), so whatever your photo plans are make sure you take that into account. Also, since Totality is (at most) just 2min 40.2sec at the point of Greatest Duration (GD), if you're planning on using the same DSLR to capture Totality as you are for shooting through the scope, make sure you can disassemble your rig from the PST fast enough that you don't miss Totality because you're busy fighting your gear, or maybe bring two cameras. Remember: if you're not at the point of GD, you might only have 60-90 seconds...and they'll go by super-fast.

To answer your question, the PST's primary H-alpha filter and rear blocking filter are mounted internally, so you can use any 1.25” astronomical eyepiece – or imaging adapter. Take a look at the Meade Variable Projection DSLR camera adapter,  or DSLR  Camera Adapter (you’ll need a camera-specific T-ring to match whatever DSLR you’re using for both). Either one should work, but for ease-of-use I’d go with the second one.

If you’re looking for my opinion, I would leave the PST at home. You can look at the sun and do solar photography (literally) every other day of the year...but the eclipse is a one-and-done - and you can’t even use your H-a scope during the actual event. Instead, grab some solar glasses and a white-light filter for your camera lens and go out and simply enjoy it…just get a filter that’s easy to remove so you can quickly pull it off during Totality, allowing you to capture the Corona unfiltered, then quickly put it back on after Totality. I like the Mr. StarGuy Adjustable Objective filters – because instead of fumbling with screw-on threads, you just tighten or loosen a couple of thumbscrews. They come in a bunch of diameters, so I’m sure there’s one that will fit your lens.

No matter what you decide, please check out my colleague’s articles on how to shoot the sun here:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/solar-eclipse-photography-faq

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-solar-eclipse

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-sun

If you have any other questions, or follow-ups to this one, please feel free to ask…we’re here to help.

Thanks for reading, and here's to hoping for Clear Skies!

I'm going to Wyoming for the eclipse and take a lot of pictures. I'm wondering if I'm better off with a camera with a long zoom (like the Sigma 150-600) or using a telescope like one of the Meade ones like this: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1314857-REG/meade_227003_eclipsev...

From what I can see on Meade's website, there's a dSLR adapter that lets you use the telescope as a lens for the camera. I'm wondering if that's viable, and which one would be best. From what I've read, with a straight camera and lens, you want something like a 1200-1500mm equivalent telephoto (I'll be using a DX camera and a teleconvertor) but do the telescopes use the same focal length scale? That telescope I linked is "only" 700 mm.

Thanks!

Good day Seth.

This is a mutli-part question, so I'm going to answer the portions I can and then I'll enlist my colleague Todd to answer the other parts.

You can absolutely shoot through a telescope - the process is called digiscoping and there are an array of adapters that you can use. The Meade DSLR Camera Adapter is the most basic – you’d just need a camera-specific T-ring to match whatever DSLR lens mount you’re using. This adapter would take the place of the lens and fit into the focuser tube of any telescope with a 1.25” eyepiece holder. In this configuration your telescope becomes a super telephoto lens. With that being said, using the reflector that you linked probably wouldn’t be the best one for this method – mostly it comes down to the mount. It’s manual alt-azimuth mount will be a bit shaky (especially when you consider that putting the camera at the front/side where the eyepiece is will front-weight the system and strain the mount), and finding the sun with it will require a bit of practice. Personally, I’d be more inclined – in this instance – to recommend a camera/lens. If you already had a solid mount like the Meade ETX or similar motorized/GoTo system, then I would recommend using the above method…personally, I have this telescope that I shoot the sun and moon with using this exact method. Look for an article coming up soon where I discuss different methods of shooting the sun through a telescope.

Until Todd can comment on this (he’s a very busy man), these articles of his might be able to help you out with the photo questions:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/solar-eclipse-photography-faq

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-solar-eclipse

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-sun

 If you have any other questions, or follow-ups to this one, please feel free to ask…we’re here to help.

Thanks,

Hey Seth,

Good questions.

I think Chris answered your question pretty well. When it comes to equivalent focal length's, comparing telescopes and cameras is actually not very easy. Focal length is focal length, but you are just talking about the optical tube assembly (OTA). The real magnification on a telescope usually comes from the eyepieces. The Meade has 2 eyepieces...one is 78x and the other is 30x. You can do a rough approximation of magnification to camera focal length if you use the standard that 50mm is 1x. So, 30x is about 1500mm in camera speak. 78x is 3900mm. 

Easy, right? The issue here is that, in order to photograph through the telescope, you have to remove the eyepiece and Meade does not provide the magnification of the OTA alone. If someone out there knows the secret to this math, please speak up!

As Chris said, this OTA might not be the best for photography, but removing that particular telescope from the equation, you should ask yourself if you want to own a telescope or a long lens. If you want to do some stargazing with a telescope, then, by all means, invest in one that is good and one that you will enjoy. Make sure you can photograph through it, but buy it for stargazing and eclipse viewing. If you think you would get a lot of use from a 150-600mm lens, then go that route.

A third option is a spotting scope and digiscoping through that. Spotting scopes are better than telescopes for terrestrial observations like birds and wildlife, but are also good at celestial fun as well. I use mine to look at the sun, moon, planets, nebulae, etc...and photograph them. Most provide the equivalent of around a 1000mm focal length camera lens.

Standing by for follow-up questions! Thanks for reading Explora!

I got more questions! You're right about the telescope. I'm just figuring out what I need to maximize this "first-in-my-lifetime" experience. I live in Savannah, and even though I'm only about a two hour drive from totality here, I'm flying to Denver and a buddy from Ft. Collins and I are going to drive up to Wyoming. I own a D600 and an old D300, so IMHO, I don't really have "optimal" gear for an eclipse. So I'm renting a D5600 and that Sigma 150-600 with a 1.4x TC. I figure the 5600 is probably best because the features that it lacks compared to the D7500 and D500 won't be much use for an eclipse. Everything has to be set manually, and it has a flip-out LCD, and an intervalometer. The Sigma gear gives me a (roughly) 400-1200mm equivalent focal length which should be plenty. I have a number of tripods, so I'm pretty set there. I figured I'd just point the camera at the sun, set the intervalometer to 1 shot ever 10 secs and then let it go. And adjusting the position manually every few minutes. Then I got the idea to rent two cameras. First, the idea was to use the second one as backup. Then I figured I'd use the second one specifically for totality. So for that one, I'd start it a couple of minutes before totality, and let it run until a few mintues afterwards. And then I could enjoy the experience while the cameras did all the work.

SO...after all that, here's my question...I know the sun moves pretty fast, so if I want to get some good shots of the corona, I'll need longer exposure times, and that means some kind of motorized mount. Based on the specs on your website, my camera will weigh about 6lbs. I've done a little bit of digging, and I found three mounts that may do the trick:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1092106-REG/sky_watcher_s20510_st...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/843972-REG/Vixen_Optics_35505_Pol...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1332922-REG/ioptron_3550_skyguide...

They're not crazy expensive ($300-450) and I could use it for astrophotography at home. While it would be great if you could deep-dive into the pros and cons of each of them, I know that's a bit above-and-beyond. At a high level, though, do you have a help page on motorized mounts? Are all of these at least "adequate" for eclipse shooting? Do you have others that I should look at? Is that enough questions for one night?? ;-)

Thanks again!
-Seth

Seth,

Both me and Todd are using the iOptron SkyGuider Pro during the eclipse, so I can speak to it's quality and tracking ability. That being said, I've seen great shots taken using the Polarie, and I know a pro eclipse chaser who swears by the Star Adventurer. All things being equal, I'd say take a look at their payload capacity and find the one that can safely handle your rig. The one limitation of the iOptron is that the payload is set at 11-pounds, whereas the Vixen and SkyWatcher both have optional counterweight kits that increase the payload capacity of the mount when installed. The bottom line is that all three are solid options and you can't go wrong no matter what you go with.

Thanks for all the great information on photography and now on the eclipse!!  I wear glasses and wondering if the normal solar glasses will work wearing them over my glasses?  And if not, are there solar glasses that I could get that would be better?

Thanks for all you help!

Great question, Tom!

Yes, normal solar glasses will work over your prescription glasses. The ISO-rated solar glasses work by blocking more than 99.99% of the intense visible light from the sun plus 100% of damaging UV and IR radiation, so there won't be any interference with your regular lenses. The size and shape of your frames will most likely dictate the form-factor you go with for solar glasses (see below for some recommendations). As long as the one you pick is ISO-12312-2 certified you'll be fine (all of the solar viewing glasses B&H sells carry this certification).

Recommendations would include:

Meade EclipseView White-Light Solar Viewing Card (5-Pack) - which you would just hold up to your eyes

Meade EclipseView Standard Solar Glasses (5-Pack) - which you wear over your normal glasses (again, as long as they are compatible with your frames)

Hope this helps - and if it doesn't, please let me know in the comments or feel free to call or live-chat us and we'll be happy to find the right viewing glasses for you.

Thanks for the question and for reading,

-chris

Thanks for a great article and information.  Could you tell us a little more about the difference between the 10x25 and the 10x42 binoculars, and which would be better for the eclipse and/or general viewing of the sun

Thanks!

Katie...That's a great question.

The larger 42mm aperture accounts for the differences. For me, the most important thing that the larger aperture does is provide a wider exit pupil and longer eye relief. The 10x42's have a 4.2mm exit pupil and 12.7mm eye relief (versus 2.5 and 10.5 respectively for the 10x25), so the light exiting the eyepiece to your eye will completely cover your pupils - allowing you to easily see the entire field of view without having to move your head/eyes and minimizing the appearance of visible hand-shake that can happen when you hold higher-power optics for long periods of time...and you'll be able to keep the eyepiece further away from your face - which is more comfortable. The 42mm version also has a wider field of view, which will make it easier to find the sun in the first place.

This doesn't mean that the 10x25 model isn't useful or inferior - far from it. The smaller objectives and roof-prism optical path produces a slimmer form-factor that makes them much smaller and lighter, so handling them will most definitely be easier. The 25mm version weighs in at just 11.5-ounces while the 42mm will easily be twice that, if not more, which will reduce the onset of fatigue during long observations sessions. They'll also be much more easy to pack if you're traveling to the eclipse, and carry for the whole day.

As far as I'm concerned, it's all about convenience. Personally, I'd go with the 10x42 mostly for the exit pupil and eye relief - but if weight and size are the primary concerns, then the 10x25s are the ones for you.

Hope that helps - and if it doesn't let me know and I'll be happy to continue until I do 8)

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