My Timelapse Stars Look Bad

The stars are weird triangles, lines, circles, or discs like this:


This is called chromatic aberration. It varies between lenses and is worse at the low apertures we like to use for night timelapse. It generally gets worse toward the edges of a frame. What makes a spectacular lens does not always make a spectacular astrophotography lens.  Chroma is generally worse at lower aperture values.  I no longer will use my Rokinon 24mm at f1.4 at night – the chroma is too bad.  Good lenses start to look nice and free of this around f2.8, and that’s where I shoot most night shots.

It was actually out of focus. You need to zoom in and focus with ‘live view.’ Don’t trust the brightest stars!  Only use those for a rough focus and then find the spot where you can make tiny ones appear.  Some dim stars will only appear in a perfectly focused lens.

You used too long of exposures for your given lens. Stars will start to drag and turn into small trails faster when you’re zoomed in more.  General rules are up to 30s exposures for 14mm, up to 15s for 24mm, etc. Beware long exposures on telephotos!

You used a camera the performs poorly in low light conditions.  My old T2i looks fine in daylight but is junk in the dark – the colors just look flat and unnatural.  You need a sensor that can perform up to the quality you’re looking for! If you’re going to put in all the time it takes to shoot night shots – I’d recommend getting a camera that is capable of shooting nice night shots.

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