In 2015, I sold my Nikon gear and started using the amazing Fujifilm X-T1 as my main camera. The smaller size, the great image quality and the pleasant handling convinced me to switch.
When I started getting into astrophotography, though, I couldn’t find a lot of examples of what these little cameras were capable of. There were of course numerous photographs of the Milky Way, but deep-sky astrophotography is still quite rare. And heavily dominated by Canon and Nikon cameras.
Therefore, I thought it could be inspiring to share some amazing photographs made with Fujifilm cameras. And perhaps motivate some Fuji users to give astrophotography a try!
Also, a big thank you to everyone who accepted to share their photographs and experience on this blog!
If you own a Fujifilm camera and would like to share your deep-sky photographs on this post, feel free to contact me!
Yusuke Satou (Japan)
For his astrophotography, Yusuke uses a full spectrum Canon EOS 6D, as well as an unmodified Fujifilm X-E2 camera. The wonderful pictures below were taken with the X-E2 mounted on a Takahashi TOA-150B refractor telescope.
Makoto Shindou (Japan)
Makoto is another Fujifilm user based in Japan. The results he gets from the his entry level cameras, the Fujifilm X-M1 and X-A1, are simply amazing! The widefield image of the Horsehead nebula, located in the constellation of Orion, is really impressive, with a lot of details in the dusty regions.
George Papanicolaou (Australia)
But George is also a Fujifilm GFX user, and naturally, he gave his camera a try at deep-sky imaging. The picture below is very impressive, as it consists of a single exposure of two beautiful nebulae, M8 and M20. The 50 megapixels allowed George to crop quite a lot, while retaining a lot of details.
As you can see on the 2nd picture, the large sensor of the Fujifilm GFX 50S produces some vignetting on the Takahashi 85. But it’s easy to correct in post production, for instance using flats.
David, a.k.a. NeoObserver (USA)
David considers himself an amateur astrophotographer, and told me he does a lot of mistakes during imaging sessions. But he keeps improving and his pictures are definitely impressive!
Deep-sky astrophotography has a steep learning curve, and requires far more trial and error than conventional photography. But in the end, even though it sounds a bit cliché, what matters is the journey, rather than the destination.
I particularly like his photograph of Messier 82 (the Cigar Galaxy) and Messier 81 (Bode’s Galaxy) below. David used an X-T1, before upgrading to an X-T2, and also thinks that the Fuji’s response to Ha (red) is very good.
He shared an interesting tip: to avoid excessive heat in the sensor, David uses the battery grip of the X-T2, with the flip screen out. Good idea!
Anthony Turpaud (France)
Recently, Anthony started imaging deep-sky as well, using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer mount, before upgrading to the EQ6 Pro. He also started with standard lenses, like the XF 55-200mm, and the results are very good! The proof that you don’t need to have very expensive equipment to produce beautiful deep-sky photographs!
My own pictures
I started astrophotography after I switched to Fujifilm, so I also have a couple pictures to show! I still consider myself a beginner, so the following pictures do not exhibit the best you can get out of these cameras. And when I see the marvelous pictures shown above, I still have a lot to learn!
But it might give you an idea of what you can achieve at the beginning of your astro-adventure!
Astrophotography with a Fujifilm camera: what can you expect?
It’s easy to find astrophotography examples with Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. But not so with Fujifilm cameras. So, what can we expect from their cameras?
Well, after reading a lot of comments and reviews, on forums and blogs, here are a few reasons why I believe the Fujifilm X-Series cameras are a great choice for astrophotography — and sometimes a good alternative to the traditional DSLR.
Advantages of the Fujifilm X-Series cameras
Size & weight
My X-T1 weighs around 440g, which is really appreciable when used with a lightweight equatorial mount, like the iOptron SkyTracker/Skyguider or the Sky-Watcher StarAdventurer. These mounts have a limited payload, so every gram counts!
Some smaller models, like the X-T10/20 and X-E1/2/3 are even lighter. This makes astrophotography portable, and that’s very important, because dark skies are often remote places that you reach after a hike.
Fujifilm cameras have a good reputation when it comes to ISO performance. They use Sony’s IMX sensors, which are also used in very popular astrophotography cameras like ZWO, QHY or Altair.
However, good ISO performance isn’t a huge advantage in deep-sky astrophotography. Firstly, because the recommended ISO range is usually between 800 and 1600. And secondly, because the resulting noise can be eliminated by stacking and using dark frames.
Another advantage is that the Fujifilm cameras have a good response to hydrogen alpha (Ha). This is particularly important in astrophotography, because objects like emission nebulae are emitting Ha (see the red nebulas in the pictures above).
A good response means a better transmittance in these wavelengths, and also more accurate colors, resulting in a better image in the end. It can also be an alternative to modding the camera, even though it is certainly not as effective.
Sensor size & magnification
In my opinion, APS-C cameras offer the one of the best compromise between sensor size and magnification, and sit nicely between Micro 4/3 and Full Frame sensors.
For a given number of megapixels, it’s true that a full frame sensor will gather more light than an APS-C sensor (2x the surface), but at the cost of less reach, for a given focal length.
In deep-sky astrophotography, more magnification can be useful, because some targets are quite small. Besides, with a smaller sensor, you can also use a smaller lens or telescope to achieve the same result.
The fact that the sensor collects less light isn’t always a problem. Using techniques like autoguiding, and provided your equatorial mount is good enough, you can easily achieve several minutes long exposures.
Fujifilm X-Series cameras are rather new in the market, so the lens lineup is still significantly smaller than other brands. However, like most mirrorless cameras, you can mount barely any lens every made with an adapter.
Interestingly, camera lenses can be excellent in daylight photography, and very poor in astrophotography. The least imperfection can have huge consequences on your photographs. Most of the problems come from the fact that stars are sources of color fringing, astigmatism and coma.
There are some very good lenses from the film era that can be used for astrophotography, such as the Pentax Super Takumar 200mm f/4. These lenses are often very cheap and relatively lightweight, which is perfect for a beginner!
Rokinon/Samyang also has a very good reputation when it comes to astrophotography. They mainly produce manual lenses, with very good performance, even wide open. The Samyang 135mm f/2 is probably the most popular lens in the astrophotography community, due to it’s stellar performance and wide aperture.
Drawbacks of the Fujifilm X-Series cameras
One of the main issue Fujifilm users are facing, is the compatibility of the RAW files with the existing software. The fact that the cameras use a different type of sensor, called X-Trans, also means that the demosaicing algorithms are different than with a Bayer sensor.
For instance, you cannot use the RAW files directly in DeepSkyStacker. If you do, the final picture will show an ugly grid pattern. As a workaround, you can convert your RAW files to TIF (or DNG) beforehand. It’s an extra step, but it works fine!
Unlike Canon and Nikon cameras, it’s not possible to tweak the software inside your Fujifilm camera. Canon users can use the famous BackyardEOS (also available on Nikon cameras), that extends the features of the camera, especially for astrophotography.
However, that’s definitely not a show stopper, as you can see with the wonderful images above. Not all Canon and Nikon photographers use this software anyway, and it’s more like a helpful hand, rather than a must-have tool.
Do you own a Fujifilm camera too?
Feel free to share your experience in the comments!